American Jade at Bucks County Playhouse

           Memoirs are a form of autobiography that go beyond just the story telling of what happened in a person’s life. They are filled with the writer’s reflection on the events, and they show us how the memoirist felt about his or her life. The most popular ones are usually about celebrities- show business, the political life, sports. And in the recent decades, they have become the most popular book in the publishing world. Bucks County Playhouse is producing a new memoir in a different form, on the stage, as one of those writers is also a performer and relives her story. It is a departure from the bigger shows and musicals usually on that New Hope stage and it is enjoyable, intriguing, and a learning experience for me.

            The story is written by and starring Jodi Long, a most accomplished actor in film, television, and on the stage. She chronicles her life from her earliest accomplishments (when she was cast at the age of seven by famed director, Sidney Lumet) to today, some 60 years later. But what makes it most fascinating are the tales she tales of her parents. Jodi Long’s mother is a Japanese-American, her father is of Chinese descent.

            Jodi grew up in Queens, New York.  Her parents were performers of a Vaudevillian style, her father an accomplished dancer, and they traveled the country in the 1940’s and 50’s wherever there was a chance to entertain. They even appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” But there is so much more to the story. Her mother, who grew up in Oregon, was in an internment camp because of her Japanese heritage- this, while Jodi’s uncle, her mother’s brother, was fighting the Nazis in Europe.

            She loved both her parents, but the marriage didn’t work out and they divorced.  She had to establish relationships with new step parents. But she was rescued by her talent, first going to the High School of Performing Arts, then as a theater major to a New York State College at Purchase, before going on to a successful career.

            I can go on and on telling you what I learned from Jodi’s memoir. How her father, who couldn’t speak Chinese, faked words to give his audience the impression of a native Chinese man. In fact, he came from Australia and was of Chinese and Scottish descent. How her mother gave up show business when she divorced. About the different productions, successful and failed, that Jodi worked in. But it best to hear it from her, on the Bucks County stage, about her personal journey through life as an Asian-American, who was probably more American than most Americans.

            The only bit of criticism I had for the piece was the beginning of first act of the two hour play. Jodi was simply telling us what went on. I liked it better when she more dynamically took on the characters of the people in her life and showed us. It is a new play and will probably keep evolving, but it still leaves the theater-goer enriched. I always like that.

“American Jade” by Jodi Long. Thru June 11, 2022. Bucks County Playhouse, 70 Main St., New Hope, PA 18938.   215-862-2121

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