BWW Review: MARJORIE PRIME is Prime Offering at Dobama

BWW Review: MARJORIE PRIME is Prime Offering at Dobama

Local theater-goers are familiar with the outstanding performance work of Dorothy Silver, often called "the first lady of Cleveland theater." Many are also aware of the creative writings of JorDan Harrison from his script development of the television hit, "Orange is The New Black." The two merge in Dobama Theater's masterful "Marjorie Prime."

Eighty-six-year old Marjorie (Dorothy Silver) sits stage left in an overstuffed recliner chair, which appears out of place in the contemporary sleek living space. It is a chair obviously placed there for Marjorie's convenience.

Her grayish wispy hair neatly combed, dressed in a bathrobe and high Ugg-like slippers, she is in conversation with "Walter." Walter (Nicholas Chokan), her dead husband. Walter appears to be in his young thirties. Walter moves rather stiffly and his voice sounds somewhat mechanical.

As we find out, Walter is a "prime," a computerized version of her husband who has been programmed to help Marjorie uncover the intricacies of her past, a necessity, as the woman has started to slide into dementia.

Marjorie's memory state confounds her daughter, Tess (Derdriu Ring), with whom she seems to have a contentious relationship. Marjorie now lives with Tess and her supportive husband, Jon (Steve Sawicki).

The tale takes audience on a twisting, thought-provoking journey, complete with exposure to Artificial Intelligence. To reveal any more of the actual story would ruin the experience for those who will be seeing the play.

The ninety-minute intermission-less exploration is almost existentialistic in its pursuit of asking questions. Queries like: What does it mean to be human in the digital age? Can technology replace humans? Is rebuilding past memories really advantageous or is moving forward void of the past better, less painful? If we had choices, what would we remember and what would we chose to forget? And, probably the most important inquiry--What are my attitudes toward memory, mortality and the prospect of future life and decline?

Yes, JorDan Harrison explores the mysteries of human identity and the limits, if any, of what technology can replace.

Dobama's production, under the wise direction of Shannon Sindelar, is superlative. The cast, the pace, the line interpretation, grab and hold the audience from the fraught, frustrated opening comments and movements of Marjorie, through the introduction of the concept of a prime, to the growing frustrations of Marjorie and Tess, to the heart breaking conclusion. It's quite a journey.

Dorothy Silver, as we have come to expect, gives a compelling performance as Marjorie. Every move, every line, every frown, every flick of her wrist, is meaningful. It's such a privilege to be in the spell of this bright, talented and alert octogenarian.

Derdriu Ring again displays her well-honed acting chops. She doesn't portray Tess, she is Tess. It's hard to believe that Silver and Ring (both Cleveland Critic Circle and Best Actress award winners) aren't really mother and daughter, simply presenting themselves in a public space.

CLE newcomer, Steve Sawicki, is a welcome addition to the local acting pool. He gives a nicely textured performance as Jon.

Nicholas Chokan takes on the difficult task of portraying a "prime." He easily transfers from a motionless automaton to a life-like robot with amazing ease.

Jill Davis' realistic contemporary set is playing area correct. Sound Designer Erik T. Lawson has wisely placed a subtle "Twilight Zone" sound underlying the entire production, taking the audience into an other-world-like space. (It's either there, or I was transported to imagine the sound.)

Capsule judgment:

"Marjorie Prime" runs through November 12, 2017 at Dobama Theatre. Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.

Next up at Dobama: Local playwright Eric Coble's adaptation of "Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars," from December 1-30, 2017.

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From This Author Roy Berko

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