Regret can be a powerful emotion, but usually one that has little positive value. That is among the lessons learned by Jasmine Starr-Kidd, a 12-year-old computer whiz who deeply regrets her parents’ divorce and believes she can employ her scientific savvy to bring them together again.
So it goes in The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd, a whimsical and somewhat wise new play by Stephen Brown, now receiving its Florida premiere at FAU’s Theatre Lab, continuing through Oct. 8. Although the script could still stand some editing, you are unlikely to regret seeing this imaginative work of science in service to matters of the heart.
Jasmine Starr-Kidd represents the fifth in Theatre Lab’s pre-season theater for families underwritten by the Heckscher Foundation for Children. Its prime audience is the 1,000 Palm Beach County school students who will see the work for free this month, while the production is open to the public on weekends. Brown — himself a former child of divorce — has written a kid-friendly script, but it is by no means child’s play.
Pre-teen Jasmine is off-the-chart smart, but that does not make her immune to the pain of divorce. With the aid of her trusty companion, an artificial intelligence computer dubbed Grace, Jasmine reasons that if she can travel back in time to when her parents’ marital woes first surfaced, maybe she could erase their problems and reunite them.
Building such a time machine proves to be the easy part. (OK, that does require some willful suspension of disbelief on the audience’s part.) But as with almost all science fiction tales that deal with the time-space continuum, Jasmine learns that tinkering with the past has unexpected consequences for the present.
Jasmine lives with her middle school science teacher dad, Doug (Theatre Lab veteran Timothy Mark Davis), a benign but ineffectual soul starting to dip his toe back into the dating pool. Her contact with her mom, Kendra (Sheena O. Murray), is mostly by Zoom, for she is a renowned physicist on a perpetual worldwide TED talk tour. For her time travel experiments, Jasmine enlists the aid of her easily manipulated Uncle Craig (Troy Davidson, the cast’s sole Actor’s Equity member), who keeps shuttling back a decade via a teleportation device that takes up much of Jasmine’s bedroom space.
While the supporting cast — including an unseen Juliana Parris as the voice of Grace — is fine, the bulk of the play depends on the considerable performance skills of recent FAU BFA graduate Sarah Romeo as Jasmine. She manages to deliver gobs of high-tech verbiage, often at break-neck speed, while rooting her character in a personal dilemma that draws instant empathy. Romeo is a compelling stage presence, an actress with an undeniable future.
The play requires an exacting whimsical tone, which it gets from director Matt Stabile, the company’s producing artistic honcho. He also gets some top-notch support from his design team, including Aubrey Kestell’s roomy, tech-laden set for Jasmine’s bedroom, Tom Shorrock’s chipper lighting and some crisp videos from Robert Goodrich.
As only the second-ever production of The Many Wonderful Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd, this very promising play still feels one draft away from final form. The dialogue could stand some pruning, particularly when restating its message as it wraps up. Nevertheless, there is plenty here to entertain, stimulate thought and — for younger audiences — serves as a dandy introduction to live theater.
THE MANY WONDERFUL REALITIES OF JASMINE STARR-KIDD, Florida Atlantic University Theatre Lab, Parliament Hall, FAU Campus, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Through Sun., Oct. 8. $25. 561-297-6124.