By Jan Sjostrom
Jasmine Starr-Kidd is having a tough time dealing with her parents’ divorce. In that she’s much like many other 12-year-olds today. But Jasmine has a fix.
A science prodigy Jasmine builds a time-travel machine designed to let her alter the past so that her parents stay happily married. They’ve drifted apart as her mom’s career as a famous scientist takes off and her middle-school science teacher dad lags behind. He’s white and she’s Black, but race doesn’t really figure in the story.
From there The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd takes off at a break-neck pace through a series of trials and errors as Jasmine attempts to mold the past to produce a present to her liking.
The one-act show, written by Stephen Brown, is receiving its second production at Theatre Lab at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. It’s the centerpiece of the theater’s educational outreach program, but its lesson applies to audiences of every age. The question the play poses is this: If you could go back in time and undo your greatest regrets would it make your life better?
Let’s dispense with the improbabilities first—such as a 12-year-old capable of crafting not only a time travel machine but also a sentient artificial intelligence helper or her Dad failing to quiz her about the big machine that pops up in her bedroom.
Just go with it.
The production, directed by Matt Stabile, Theatre Lab’s producing artistic director, crackles with energy, sparkles with humor and warms the heart with a reassuring message about life’s unavoidable missteps and what they can teach us.
Sarah Romeo nails Jasmine’s relentless confidence and brilliance, along with her youthful vulnerability. Jasmine may be a genius, but she still clings to her teddy bear. At times, Romeo’s performance verges on hyperactive, but the pacing probably is the director’s choice.
Troy Davidson portrays Uncle Craig, who Jamine enlists as her “volunteer” to help build the machine and journey back in time as her delegate. An eloquent physical comedian, Davidson makes Craig both loopy and sympathetic as he gets sucked into Jasmine’s plans in hopes of reuniting with an old flame.
The focus on Jasmine bypasses whatever happens during Craig’s many time-travel trips, which seems a shame. It would have fun—and a welcome relief from Jasmine’s blind determination—to see at least one of his foiled attempts to set things right.
As Doug, Jasmine’s dad, Timothy Mark Davis is a nerdy, almost puppy-like presence, who cheerfully tries to keep his daughter’s spirits up while struggling to move on with his life.
On the road on a lecture tour, Jasmine’s mom, Kendra, played by Sheena O. Murray, wields a kind but firm hand from afar, tempered with enthusiasm for her daughter’s precocious scientific break-throughs.
Two of the best characters appear only on screens. Grace, Jasmine’s artificial intelligence pal, is played with an amusing blend of human foibles and super-computer efficiency by Juliana Parris, who also portrays Jasmine as an adult.
Corporal Delmar, the clueless defense department employee who ships dangerous lasers to a child, is brought to full-bodied good ol’ boy life by Brandon J. Campbell, who also portrays Todd, Jasmine’s much-mistreated wannabe boyfriend.
Technology plays a big role in the show. Time travel is evoked by lighting designer Tom Shorrock’s swirling colored lights and sound designer Matt Corey’s throbbing electronic accompaniment. Jasmine’s calculations predicting matters such as her dad’s romantic compatibility prospects as well as Grace’s digital industriousness light up one screen while another displays Doug’s animated science lesson, courtesy of Robert Goodrich’s video design.
Dawn C. Shamburger’s character-building costumes range from Craig’s mismatched knee-highs and cat lovers’ pants to Kendra’s elegant business attire. Jasmine’s bedroom straddles science and girlishness in Aubrey Kestell’s single-set scenic design.
The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd is an imaginative exploration of one of life’s bittersweet realities. It’s done with humor and compassion, an approach that’s perhaps best suited to dealing with regrets.
The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd runs through Oct. 8 at Theatre Lab at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Run time is 90 minutes without intermission. Show times are at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $25 for adults. Family pack tickets for parties of children and adults are available for $5 to $12.50. Tickets at https://tinyurl.com/bbccz7sb or (561) 297-6124.