Review: MARJORIE PRIME at Prologue Theatre At The Atlas

These androids do not dream of electric sheep.

By: Apr. 28, 2024
Review: MARJORIE PRIME at Prologue Theatre At The Atlas
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"Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and the land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning," concludes Thornton Wilder's 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey; Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, itself a a finalist in 2015 for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, concludes with similar text and comparable wisdom. Prologue Theatre's production supports absolutely these seemingly old-fashioned values while at the same time looking down the barrel of the most recent de-humanizing "breakthrough" humanity has self-destructively glommed onto: AI.

Marjorie Prime, on the one hand, considers how the aging of family members can change many of the details and routines of family life. Rosemary Regan masterfully depicts a senior matriarch, declining with dignity and being cared for by her daughter Tess (the splendid Kimberly Gilbert) and son-in-law Jon (a solid Sam Lunay). On the other hand, the play requires an audience to consider whether it is beneficial for aging humans to have the companionship of robots, programmed to resemble and behave like their personal loved ones. It's quite a chilling consideration; in the century plus since Čapek put androids onto a stage (R.U.R., 1920), robots have become a regular part of the culture. The variety itself seems like a thing. Robots have been scary (Gort, Hal, The Borg), funny (Marvin, Dot Matrix), unhappy (The Replicants, The Cylons, Wall-E), and whatever the hell T-800 is (besides back; he'll always be back). But robots have never been portrayed as our parents, never been people we know, never shared our lives, emotions, and memories. Marjorie Prime makes an audience think and feel what that might be like. The premise of this play is not yet possible, but, without a serious think about to what use artificial intelligence ought to be put, it's possible that the next generation may find out the hard way.

Meanwhile, Director Jason Tamborini has piloted an engrossing production. Gabriel Alejandro plays Walter, Marjorie's husband, with grace but not quite enough vocal energy. Sarah Reed's set design has both the details of everyday American life such as photos on the colorful walls, but also only outlines of other architectural features--an appropriate mix for a play which is part realism, part science fiction. Tamborini uses Malory Hartman's lighting design very creatively to indicate the passage of time. Ian Vespermann's sound design provides the straight-up Vivaldi that Marjorie used to play when she was a violinist; and then it provides a distorted season when the entity recalling the music is a memory or maybe just some code. But nothing human is distorted in this very well-acted, thoughtful, and welcome play. Here's looking at you, kids.

Marjorie Prime lasts 90 minutes and runs through May 19.

(Photo by DJ Corey Photography

[Rosemary Regan (Marjorie) and Kimberly Gilbert (Tess)])


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