The lead character in Rolin Jones' comic play The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow is a brash, brilliant, foul-mouthed, twentysomething agoraphobic adoptee who longs to connect authentically and meaningfully with her Chinese birth parents. Wired to the technological universe by her hyperactive genius, Jennifer Marcus—played with wild high energy by the charismatic Kimber Lee— decides to create her own double, a quick-learning, flying robot that will venture out in her stead. Directed by Carol Roscoe, the play is a flight of allegorical fancy, a hip and fast-paced meditation on the pitfalls of constructing an identity that will connect with the gritty, unpredictable world. It's exhilarating to watch an obviously talented young playwright tackle such hefty themes, but the setup proves a bit too ambitious for the scope of the play, which can't quite resolve the bundle of contradictions it unleashes; its wings get singed.
The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse, 7312 W. Green Lake Dr. N., 206-524-1300, www.seattlepublictheater.org. $12. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Through June 11.
Jones' language is high-octane, a combination of cyberspeak and cool punk, and much of the play's pleasure derives from Lee's facile patter as she bounces around her room, hatching her plans. As the eponymous robot of intelligent design, Kelly Mak proves a fantastic physical actor; her movements whir and click with an eerily mechanical precision. And Trick Danneker is also good as Jennifer's pizza-delivering friend, Todd, a stoner with a heart of gold.
The play's main problem is that so many questions and issues are posed in the first half that the second act is rushed and incomplete. Jones seems at such pains to wrap everything up that the concluding scenes feel like a pileup. The script, so loaded with ideological potential, seems capable of accommodating an infinite range of interpretations, with no limit to the darkness it could absorb. However, Roscoe keeps things fairly light, perhaps in an attempt to smooth over the unevenness. It's a good decision. By emphasizing the play's comic elements, the messy ending is antic rather than pretentious, and a crash landing is averted.