MTC MP Carlin LoRes

Marjorie Prime

Marjorie Prime
by Jordan Harrison
Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll

Marin Theatre Company

Somewhere, Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling are smiling down upon MTC’s excellent staging of Jordan Harrison’s haunting, tale of memory, sentience and grief. Both writers were masters of psychological fantasy; exploring the relationships between human thought and futuristic environments that add an element of the unknown or anticipated. Harrison adds his mark to this legacy; challenging our perception of what makes us human and how easily that feature can be mimicked by technology.

The year is 2062 and potentially sentient bots can be purchased as companions, programmed to feed back the owners faded memories. Marjorie (Joy Carlin), who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, chooses a 30-year old version of her late husband Walter as her ‘Prime’, much to the chagrin of her daughter Tess (Julie Eccles), who’s never gotten over her father’s death.    Harrison uses this simple, supposedly comforting concept as a stepping off point for a poignant exploration of a family’s complicated turmoil.

A distraught Tess (Julia Eccles) is comforted by husband John (Anthony Fusco).

Joy Carlin is a joy as Marjorie; we can feel her annoyance at losing her past and the happiness that Walter (Tommy Gorrebeeck) provides. Carlin’s subtle facial expressions speak volumes about her character’s fears and hopes. Tess is not as enamored of the situation, questioning whether Walter is engaging Marjorie or simply pacifying her. Julia Eccles plays her the high-strung woman with an edginess and emotional dysfunction that will reveal itself over the course of the play. The always wonderful Anthony Fusco is Tess’s doting husband, dutiful and full of dread over his wife’s fragile emotional state.  Tommy Gorrebeeck is pleasingly bland as the avatar Walter. Programmed to say the right words, can we accept it as a viable alternative to true companionship?

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

Family secrets are revealed and Harrison adds just the right amount of tantalizing surprises that fuel the discussion of impending technology and the interaction with its human creators. This Pulitzer Prize finalist, is directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, who provides a serenity to the atmosphere that distills and concentrates the scripts heavy emotional drama. Set designer Kimie Nishikawa has created a bleak, spare, mid-20th century interior of sleek marbled wood, backlit by Michael Palumbo’s tonal lighting design.

Marjorie Prime leaves you contemplating sorrow, loss and the shared memories that make us uniquely human. The stunning must-see finale drives home Harrison’s argument and leaves you with the hi-tech willies.

Marjorie Prime continues through May 27, 2018 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley. Tickets are available online at http://marintheatre.org  or by calling 415-388-5208.

Photo credits by Kevin Berne.

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