Marjorie Prime meets Artificial Intelligence at Marin Theatre.

Walter Prime (Tommy Gorrebeeck) feeds memories to Marjorie (Joy Carlin).

Marjorie Prime: Comedy by Jordan Harrison. Directed by Ken  Rus Schmoll. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA . 415-388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org.

Marjorie Prime  meets Artificial Intelligence at Marin Theatre. Rating: ★★★★★

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a buzz word used to describe computer technology with human interaction.   In Marjorie Prime being given a virtuoso production by Marin Theatre Company of Jordan Harrison’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize nominated play we jump forward to 2062 and AI has made great strides in human interaction. 

Marjorie is an 85 year old with early signs of memory loss. After consulting an organization called “Senior Serenity” Marjorie’s daughter Tess (Julia Eccles) and son-in-law Jon (Anthony Fusco) have moved her into their home in the care of a home giver and a holographic depiction of her dead husband Walter at age 30 called  Prime (Tommy Gorrebeeck).

Prime is programmed to accept memories not only from Marjorie but anyone who has input into events in her past. Tess and Jon play an active and passive role in programing Prime who makes no judgmental selection of which memories to retain or forget. Some of the memories relayed to Prime by are a combination of grief, self-satisfaction and humor.

Grief in the form of a memory that is best to forget becomes integral to the animosity Tess has to her mother. After Tess’s younger brother killed himself and their dog Marjorie in her grief neglected Tess who became alienated carrying that feeling into adulthood. Humor is found in the memory of getting their first dog from the pound and bringing her home on the bus. Self-satisfaction hangs in the air being proud of her vigorous sex life, her flirtation with an emergency doctor after falling in her bathroom and saving love letters from an attractive tennis pro who pursued her in the past.   

Specific memories are additive and tangential to how the mind might work in its understanding of memory in general. Harrison Jordan has done a masterful job questioning the selectivity of memory and its ultimate effect on one’s life without providing answers. Whereas Prime “has all the time in the world” Marjorie has no patience for those who “pretend we’ll all live forever.”

The play demands all of your attention and be advised to read the program especially Laura A. Brueckner (Marin Theatre Company’s Literary Manager and Resident Dramaturg) notes. It will help you understand the sudden and confusing ending that has no mention of the time frame. All the members of the family have died and there are three Primes on stage in tableau form.  It ends with Marjorie as a Prime saying “How nice that we could love somebody.”

Joy Carlin is an icon as an actor and director has completely invested herself into the role of Marjorie without histrionics and superb underplaying the part. Simple dialog delivery with an arched eyebrow, elevation of the chin or other body language she becomes the Marjorie that Jordan Harrison has created. Carlin has the brilliant support of (alphabetically) Julie Eccles, Anthony Fusco and Tommy Gorrebeeck.

Ken Rus Schmoll’s direction shares the accolades with his superb cast making this intricately constructed play almost completely understandable even though Jordan Harrison leaves the audience in (intentional?) intellectual limbo. All this plays out on Kimie Nishikawa’s unit plywood set buttressing the sterile world of computer generated holograms.  Running time is 80 minutes without intermission. Highly recommended.

CAST: Joy Carlin as Marjorie; Julie Eccles as Tess; Anthony Fusco as Jon; Thomas Gorrebeeck as Walter.

CREATIVE TEAM: Jordan Harrison, Playwright; Ken Rus Schmoll, Director; Kimie Nishikawa, Set Designer; Michael Palumbo, Lighting Designer; Jessie Amoroso, Costume Designer; Brendan Aanes, Sound Designer; Kevin Johnson, Stage Manager; Laura Brueckner, Production Dramaturg; Dori Jacob, Casting Director; Alessandro McLaughlin, Assistant Director.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

Leave a Reply