In MJ Halberstadt’s original science fiction play, Not Jenny, a lesbian, her enfeebled twin sister and their chubby brother move back and forth through time as they endeavor to mend their fractured relationships. Why you ask? I expect because they aren’t compelled to live their lives in chronological order like the rest of us smacktard simpletons. I surmise that perhaps they’ve been given special permission to sort through their personal histories as easily and as tenderly as one might sort through his roommate’s freshly worn delicates; to survey and sniff the filth and – after writhing on the floor with the aforementioned unmentionables pressed to his face – to forlornly hand wash the sweat and odor away forever. In other words, they’re the fortunate few who’ve apparently been given the rare opportunity to liberally navigate their lives repeatedly until they get it right… while we dickbags get one shot at mucking up our lives forever. But I digest.
The plot is this: Jenny – who gives new meaning to the phrase “bitch on wheels” – was once a popular teen (and village bicycle) with unwavering confidence and an altitude for malapropisms. Sadly, though, her mother’s chance encounter with a street lamp puts an end to all that – and to her mother. Now a wheel chair bound adult, Jenny lives with her diabetic brother (and tightly wrapped package of bratwursts), Jimmy, who is expected to take care of her but can barely help himself… up off the couch. Enter Not Jenny, a jilted lesbian with unwashed hair and a flair for flannel (no stereotypes here) who arrives unannounced to dredge up the past and to forge a future for herself and her siblings, much like a construction worker might forge steel.
Amie Lytle as Jenny literally kept the play moving. As she artfully trundled about in that wheelchair, her emotional shifts from vague to sarcastic to angry to psychotic and back to vague again kept this reviewer blissfully on the edge of his seat. Her persistent use of baby talk was a delicate but effective choice and eerily mirrored her pitiful situation; a “child” who can’t bathe herself and who’d never be able to visit Uncle Grumpy without assistance. Adam Lauver, who played Jimmy, showed great range – both physically and emotionally. His performance was simultaneously understated and powerful; so much so that I nearly forgot, for a brief moment, that he was actually a chromosomally challenged ten year old actor. I haven’t witnessed that much testosterone and spontaneous perspiration since I inadvertently lurched on to a dance floor in Provincetown during Bear Week. And finally, Philana Mia, as Not Jenny, was utterly convincing as Jo Polniaczek from The Facts of Life.
Kudos to director, Rebecca Bradshaw, for assembling a cast. And a special congratulations to scenic designer, Juliana Beecher, who put together an Ikea book shelf so sturdy that a cripple – with full use of her arms and hands – was unable to shake down her prescription medication in a desperate attempt to take a dirt nap. My only complaint about this production, however, is that as it unfolded, I was mysteriously transported to a well-crafted Off Broadway production in New York City. This is not the Big Apple, my dear Ms. Bradshaw, but rather Beantown. Here in Boston, we prefer our fringe theatre, well… not professional.
Please throw all of your hard earned money at Bridge Repertory Theatre’s production of Not Jenny… if only to afford them the opportunity to get this production the hell out of Boston and in to New York City where it belongs: Purchase your tickets here.