Review By Liz Eichler Of “Marjorie Prime”: Falcoln Theater
This Holiday season, I am thankful for all of the theatres in Cincinnati, both big and small, who help us laugh, cry, think or learn something new. The places where we like to gather in groups or couples and connect with what makes us human.
Falcon Theatre, one of Greater Cincinnati’s wonderful intimate theatres, is producing a show that will give you plenty to think and talk about as it explores what makes us human, our identity, and the making of memories—all perfect reflections for the holidays.
“Marjorie Prime,” written by Jordan Harrison, begins with a family whose mother, Marjorie, is losing her mental faculty, and based on the recommendation of the health care company, they hire a “Prime” to be her companion. The Prime looks like her deceased husband but is actually an Artificially Intelligent computer. Imagine if your Alexa or Siri had a body, and instead of just keeping track of your grocery list, can tell you some of your favorite stories in the past and carry on a conversation, continuously learning how to behave like that husband or mother. Both scary and comforting, right?
The play continues in a series of episodes in which additional reanimations (of sorts) unravel some complications of the technology–manipulation and suppression of memories. Heavy stuff, well presented in a quick 75 minutes, giving you and your theatre companions plenty of time to provide the second portion of the evening – your discussion about the play.
The Falcon is a little gem in Newport, KY, and it was packed! The new seating and the sophisticate piano music greeting you pre-show is very soothing. The simplicity of the set indicates the activities of the play are in the not too distant future (where we like clean lines again) and allows us to focus on the characters and dialogue.
Ed Cohen directed and designed set and sound, (with Ted J. Weil) creating this world that is familiar, futuristic, and accurately familiar. Scents and sounds remain important. The performers are strong. Sue Breving is Marjorie, Ryan Poole is Walter, Tara Williams is Tess, Marjorie’s daughter, and Terry Gosdin is Jon, Marjorie’s son in law. The four play multiple roles as Primes and themselves, as they manage complicated family confrontations. Author Harrison focuses on nuances of the stress of being sandwiched between caring for your parent and adult children. Tara Williams identifies each thread in a whole tangle of emotions. Gosdin plays a sympathetic husband and son-in-law, who can meet Marjorie where she is, not tied up with childhood pains or jealousies. Poole brings animation to a computer-generated character, and Breving gives us many shades of Marjorie, both lucid and failing. Lighting (Ted J. Weil) during the scene transitions let’s the lights to shine on you, the audience, underlining how our reactions are part of this interactive presentation.
My husband and I went on what would have been my dad’s 90th birthday, a realization as I drove over steel bridges, reminding me of him. Would I want a virtual assistant or “Prime” of my dad telling me “what really happened” or would I prefer the memories that have softened, goldened over these years he’s been gone? Would you want a realistic version of mom or dad there with you? Would you be tempted to “improve” him or her? And what about your siblings? My brother and sisters all have their own reflections growing up, formed by birth order and annealed by their life’s context. Lots of fodder for discussion.
“Marjorie Prime” was a contender for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. Go as a couple or family group and give yourself plenty of time to explore and reflect on the implications of technology’s advances—and how those advances will be marketed to us in the future. Contact www.falcontheatre.net for tickets. Through December 7.