Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Marjorie Prime
Dobama Theater
Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's reviews of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mark's review of Well

Derdriu Ring, Steve Sawicki, and Dorothy Silver
Photo by Steve Wagner
What does it mean to be human on the cusp of the artificial intelligence technology revolution? As more and more families come to rely on various forms of Alexa, Echo and Siri in our homes and vehicles to keep our busy lives in order, how much more sophisticated can these contraptions become? This is the subject of Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, which is enjoying its area premier on the Dobama Theater stage.

The time is "The New Millennium/21st Century, The Future" in Tess and Jon's ultra clean and modern living room. Off to the side of this austere environment sits an overstuffed recliner that is a remnant of times passed. Sitting in the chair is Marjorie (Dorothy Silver), surviving matron of the family, mother of Tess (Derdriu Ring), mother-in-law of Jon (Steve Sawicki), and widow of Walter, whose past existence is represented by a "Prime" (Nicholas Chokan): a sophisticated hologram made in the form of the deceased family member.

Marjorie has opted for Walter's Prime to represent her deceased husband at age 30. For the 85-year-old woman, Walter is a very important component to her current existence. As she finds herself slipping softly into a state of dementia, Walter Prime is her link to the fog-enshrouded past. Walter has been carefully programmed by Marjorie, Tess and Jon with anecdotes, facts, and even some falsehoods about Marjorie and Walter's time together.

While Jon cheerfully accepts and works with Walter Prime, Tess resents its presence as much as that of Marjorie and the ancient recliner that is a raggedy blotch in the middle of her perfect home unit. Tess also resents the constant exposure to past memories that are often revisited, some of which are very painful to her.

This is a superbly acted work (measuring out at 90 minutes with no intermission) that has been expertly directed by Shannon Sindelar, who uses a hypnotic, even and measured pace that mimics that of the Primes.

As Marjorie, Dorothy Silver is the master of subtle gestures needed to convey complex ideas that words would otherwise fail to bring across. Veteran actor Derdriu Ring brings a cutting intensity to the role of Tess that portends what is to be her fate. Steve Sawicki is perfect as Jon, the peacemaker of the family, as he attempts to keep his charges (both living and Prime) happy and functioning.

Jill Davis' set design combined with Marcus Dana's superb "halo of soft light" and Erik T. Lawson's ethereal background sounds create a believable future environment that is cozy yet threatening to the human spirit at the same time.

As the world pitches headlong into a state of increased artificial intelligence usage, questions arise as to the dangers and pitfalls. While seemingly benign in nature, does the turning over of basic brain functions help or weaken us as humans? What about the effects on our instinctive behavior patterns? Through our association with these future animatrons do we end up mimicking them to the point of surrendering our humanity? These are the questions that you will find raised in this fascinating futuristic work.

The Dobama Theater production of Marjorie Prime will be onstage through November 12, 2017, at 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights OH. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (216) 932-3396. The company's next production will be Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars, running from December 1 - 30, 2017.

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