Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Marjorie Prime
Theatre Artists Studio
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent review of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

Judy Lebeau and Laura Munoz-Bottini
Photo by Mark Gluckman
Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa revolutionized the digital world with their voice-activated and intuitive technology, responding to voice commands and answering questions, playing music, setting reminders and alarms, and giving news and weather updates. But what if Alexa knew more about you than just your shopping habits and the questions you've asked it, and had knowledge of your past so it could serve as a stand-in relative or friend who's always around to provide comfort and support? Jordan Harrison's play Marjorie Prime poses that question and intricately explores memory, technology, and human relationships. With a talented cast and firm direction, Theatre Artists Studio is presenting an intriguing production of this thought-provoking play.

Set in the not-too-distant future, the play introduces us to the concept of Prime: artificial intelligence robots that resemble our loved ones and are designed to help us retain memories and provide a positive mental health environment. Through the interactions among Marjorie, her family, and the Prime resembling her late husband Walter, the play delves into the fallacies of memory, the complexities of familial relationships, and the ways in which we navigate, or choose to ignore, painful issues and events from our past.

While the play isn't perfect due to a few parts that could be further fleshed out to fill in some details, Harrison beautifully explores the theme of memory and the role it plays in our lives and relationships. For a play that focuses on memory and memory loss, navigating through delicate family relationships, and what we remember but what we also choose to forget, I doubt that there is a person who sees this show that will not find several aspects that resonate on a personal level.

Kathleen Butler's direction beautifully navigates the 70-minute, one act, intimate drama that allows the themes to unfold organically and skillfully. The short scenes build on the narrative which plays out on a fairly simple set by Paul Steele. Stacey Walston's lighting creates an immersive yet appropriately sterile atmosphere, while Delores Goldman's costumes are character-appropriate.

Judy Lebeau's nuanced depiction of Marjorie captures the character's confusion, vulnerability and resilience. Laura Munoz-Bottini and Tom Koelbel are strong as Tess and Jon. All three actors embody characters wrestling with their own struggles and complexities. Munoz-Bottini's portrayal of Tess beautifully captures the internal conflict of wanting to shield her mother from pain while also grappling with her own unresolved emotions, and the interactions she has with Lebeau are compelling and heartbreakingly realistic. Aaron Seever brings a warm yet appropriately impersonal touch to his portrayal of Walter Prime.

Marjorie Prime at Theatre Artists Studio offers a compelling examination of memory and its impact on human relationships. With a gifted cast and concise direction that pulls you into the plot, it should leave audiences with plenty to think about concerning memory, family, and the future of artificial intelligence.

Marjorie Prime runs through March 24, 2024, at Theatre Artists Studio, 4848 East Cactus Road, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 602-765-0120

Director: Kathleen Butler
Producer: Judy Lebeau
Technical Coordinator/Director, Lighting Design: Stacey Walston
Scenic Designer/Set Dressing: Paul Steele
Props/ Costumes: Delores Goldman
Stage Manager: Amy Hartman

Marjorie: Judy Lebeau
Tess: Laura Munoz-Bottini
Jon: Tom Koelbel
Walter: Aaron Seever