Colonial Players’ production of Marjorie Prime is an emotional exploration of technology and memory. Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play, about AI companions in the form of a patient’s loved one, called Primes, raises questions about relationships and what it means to be human. Directed by Edd Miller, it is a thought-provoking way to begin 2024.
Jeanne Louise brings a hidden strength to Marjorie. Curled in a recliner and trembling, she tries to remember her life. At times she cries out in fear, wanting her dead husband, Walter. Other times she is sarcastic and fierce, arguing with her daughter (Kate Wheeler) about her nurse sharing her religion with her. She interjects when other people relate her memories, asking how they know such details or wanting to change them (for instance, in a romantic story, My Best Friend’s Wedding becomes Casablanca).
Dylan Roche plays the Prime version of Walter with an uncanny eagerness. He is almost always smiling and positive, even when Louise grumpily interjects his memories of Walter and her life together. When not in use, he sits in the kitchen, eerily looking on and occasionally turning his head.
Kate Wheeler brings a powerful vulnerability to Tess, Marjorie’s daughter. Distrustful of Primes at first, she worries that they replace the connections with “real” people. She also argues with her husband Jon (Ben Carr) about Marjorie’s turning the memories of her dislikes into “cute, little stories.” Later, she shares with a Prime about her difficult relationship with her mother, how she was not the favorite.
Ben Carr plays Tess’ husband Jon with great kindness. He has an easy back-and-forth with Louise, telling stories about her life, which help her remember other stories. He holds Tess when she feels guilty about her conflicted feelings toward her mother, supporting her. He breaks down while sharing a memory of his wife.
Set Designer Edd Miller creates a simple living room, with a coffee table in the center, surrounded by a small sofa, chairs, a recliner for Marjorie, and a long, cushioned bench. A window is suspended over the bench. Costume Designer Linda Ridge has simple outfits that help distinguish each character. The Primes are in khaki pants and shirts, while Marjorie is in sweats, occasionally covered by a quilt.
Lighting Designer Alex Brady flashes lights rhythmically at the end of each scene. In one scene, blue light flashes through the stage. Sound Designer Joe Thompson throws out electronic sounds at the end of each scene.
Edd Miller does a wonderful job as Director. The actors hit all the right emotional and comic moments, and as Primes, give just enough “robotic” inflection to their speech and movement. Marjorie Prime captures the promise and unease of AI in beautiful, heart-wrenching ways.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Marjorie Prime plays through February 3, 2023, at The Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($26 for adults; $21 for seniors, students, and military), call the box office at 410-268-7373 or purchase online.
A PDF of the playbill for Marjorie Prime is downloadable here.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional, though strongly encouraged, as long as the CDC rating for Anne Arundel County is not “High.”