The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: An Instant Message with Excitable Music – Rolin Jones

Premiered at South Coast Repertory Theater in April, 2003; subsequent New York production opened in September, 2005 at the Atlantic Theater Company.


Original Cast:


Jennifer Marcus Melody Butiu
Mr. Marcus/Mr. Zhang William Francis McGuire
Preston/Terrence/Col. Hubbard/Dr. Yakunin/Voice of Computer Translator J.D. Cullum
Adele Hartwick/Ms. Zhang Linda Gehringer
Todd/A Boy Daniel Blinkoff
Jenny Chow April Hong


Director:  David Chambers


Jennifer Marcus:  22, Asian-American
Mr. Marcus/Mr. Zhang:  early 50s
Preston/Terrence/Col.Hubbard/Dr. Yakunin/Voice of Computer Translator:  late 20s, early 30s
Adele Hartwick/Ms. Zhang:  late 40s, early 50s
Todd/A Boy:  early 20s
Jenny Chow:  early 20s, Asian-American


Publication:  Jones, Rolin. The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow:  An Instant Message with Excitable Music. Dramatists Play Service, 2006. Drama Library PS3610.O62777 I68 2006.


Setting:  A second-story bedroom, Calabasas, California; now, right now

Language:  Contemporary


I know your mom’s a raging pain and all, but it’s not all bad, ya know. I mean, c’mon, you got Tivo.

Genre/Style:  Dramatic comedy

Plot:   Jennifer is a 22-year-old engineering genius who was adopted by an American couple as a baby in China.  Jennifer’s agoraphobia causes her to clash with her over-achieving adoptive mother and spurs her to search for her birth mother.  In order to do so, she spends her time re-programming obsolete missiles for the Department of Defense in exchange for robotic parts she then uses to build an android replicant of herself that she dubs Jenny Chow.  Once Jenny Chow is complete, Jennifer sends her on a mission to make contact with her real mother in China.


Representative Monologues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.11-12:  Jennifer Marcus is on her computer, emailing someone.  It’s the opening scene.    


(To the audience). Dr. Yakunin says I can trust you. But just because you have a reference like that doesn’t mean we’re going to work together or that I don’t have other options, okay? Let’s just say, I’ve done some research and I know your competition. Ramirez? Bloomstedt? Okay? So I’m not going to take a lot of clandestine bullshit, alright? [lines cut] That was stupid, ‘cause hey, you know, I’ve had dreams of sleeping with my dad, who hasn’t? But they’re never sexy and it’s fucking gross, you know? Okay, weird. I’m a weirdo. Soooo we got off track for a sec, and now we’re gonna get back on it. (She sprays the computer with disinfectant. To the audience.) I see you’ve made some creative investments in the last year. Money in Chilean bonds, a racehorse named “El Jefe.” In your line of work I guess you just don’t have time to master the basics of money management. Laughing out loud!

p.13-14: Jennifer is working at her computer again. She’s communicating with an unknown person.     


(To the audience.) Okay, so this firewall is serious. Have you installed it yet? (Pause.) Yes, go ahead, check. (A “hacker alert” noise from the computer. To the audience. Pause.) Oh, that’s cute. (She types in something and the “alert noise stops. She sprays the computer screen with disinfectant. We hear a “blip” noise from the computer. To the audience, annoyed.) Yeah, I’m here. Installed? Goooood. You never know which one of the big boys might be listening in, right? CIA? NSA? We have to be careful, oh, and uh, yeah, we need to stick to what we’re good at, okay? [lines cut] Oh yeah, and I’m rich. Not super rich. Just regular rich. I feel it’s important that you know a little about me, and trust me, okay, you’ll need it for the job. This isn’t your average runaway case, okay? (We hear a “boink” noise from the computer. To the audienceI.) Christ. Can you hold on for a second? (The music cuts out again. Jennifer types into the computer.) Hello Preston.


Representative Scenes: 

p.65-68: Jennifer confronts Jenny after she returns from China and blames her for things going wrong with her birth mother. In a fit of anger and disappointment, she sends Jenny away.  Long scene.  Starts with



and ends with


I am very beautiful.


Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Hodgins, P. (2003, May 05). `Intelligent design’ hits its marks // the relationship between genius and madness is probed by a fine new theatrical voice. Orange County Register.

Shirley, D. (2003, May 05). THEATER REVIEW; ‘jenny’s’ instant message; dazzling stagecraft illuminates the world of a computer-obsessed, ingenious recluse in ‘jenny chow.’. Los Angeles Times, p.E1.


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