Highly Recommended **** Memory is special, as are our memories. As they begin to fade, do we as well?. In Jordan Harrison’s “Marjorie Prime” now on stage, as the very last production, at Books On Vernon’s stage of The Writers Theatre, we spend 80 minutes exploring this function on our lives. It is, of course, the modern world, one where artificial intelligence has become a major factor. The Prime is a true factor in dealing with artificial intelligence. A sort of “clone” of a person who is or was of great importance in your life, programmed to know everything that you desire to recall and to allow the things that are painful to slip away.
Marjorie is an 86- year- old woman, living alone in what appears to be a special assisted living apartment. Living with her, or so it seems is Walter, a memory of her late husband, but in his youthful days, the way she wants to remember him. Her visitors are her daughter Tess ( as always, a powerful performance by Kate Fry) and her husband, Jon ( well played by Nathan Hosner). They are trying to cope with the life as it has become of Marjorie (a superb performance by Chicago favorite Mary Ann Thebus) and what has happened to her since the coming of her “Walter” (deftly handled by Erik Hellman).
The story is sweet in many ways and also very wordy. We must listen clearly to understand where Harrison is leading us and under the clever direction of Kimberly Senior in this very intimate space in the back of a bookstore in Glencoe’s “downtown” (if one can truly refer to this little strip of shops a “downtown”) where roughly 68 people get to be a part of the experience. The audience is on three sides, never out of the view of each actor, making it very intimate for both the viewer and those viewed. I am surely going to miss this venue! This production allows Writers Theatre to spread its wings and use a play to close the space. The play demonstrates the old and new: old memories, some lost, and new memories, created for the Prime that will take over after death. Sort of like the new studio theater that will take the place of this bookstore stage with the coming of the new building. The old memories, for us, the theater-goers, will remain with us for many years and the stories we will tell to our kids and grandkids! I hope the bookshop can remain just to preserve these memories for us!
The story does explore the complications that exist in every family, some remembered and some lost forever. The play also touches on a second Prime as one of the other characters fades and is reborn in a like manner. I certainly do not want to spoil anything for you, but in less than 90 minutes (no intermission, as it also would spoil the effect) we are taken on a mysterious journey where past and future join hands and seek answers as to whether or not we have gone too far. Or might? This is a well directed, well written, well acted and highly technical, powerful production that tells a story that will make you think. The experience is one that will cause you to wonder, as I did, if this could be the future? Judge for yourself. But, you only have until February 28th to do so. Sounds like a long run. Those of you who know the venue, know that it takes a lot of performances at 68 people per to bring a production to the break even point, so also, while you are there, buy a book! A real book that you can place on a shelf at home as another memory of your past and experience at Books on Vernon (thanks to Writers Theatre). Performances are as follows:
some Wednesday 3 p.m. matinees as well
Thursdays and Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$70 and are available at the box office (321 Park Avenue, around the corner), by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org .
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Marjorie Prime”