Review “Marjorie Prime” (Writers Theatre): An Unforgettable and Surreal Experience

Sunday, January 31, 2016 Permalink 0

Marjorie-Prime_450x665Writers Theatre presents MARJORIE PRIME.

I saw this show yesterday.  I can’t stop thinking about it.    

Playwright Jordan Harrison pens a tale set in the near future. His story captivates immediately as Mary Ann Thebus (Marjorie) and Erik Hellman (Walter) are chatting. A feeble Thebus rattles on about organic peanut butter as the younger Hellman attentively listens. Through their interaction, we piece together their relationship.  Hellman is playing a ‘prime.’

Harrison has imagined the evolution of smart phones, primes.  His robotic invention interacts as a person.  A prime learns from the stories s/he’s told. A prime is personalized specifically for an individual.  Harrison’s innovation is fascinating and freaky. Walter has been programmed to be the earlier version of Marjorie’s late husband. At one point, Thebus accusingly questions Hellman, ’how did you know that?’ And he emotionlessly replies, ‘you told me.’

Harrison’s play is a series of stories told by different people from different memories.  It’s almost like the childhood game telephone. The information relay is tainted with emotion, time and perspective. Thebus’ health and memory are failing. Her prime gets input from her dwindling faculties but also her son-in-law’s memories of stories.  Harrison’s premise is evocative.  Putting together the complexities of the past and the present is engaging.                    

I want to be vague about the overall story because the brilliance of the experience is putting together this puzzle to understand who these people are and what kind of life they have and had.  Director Kimberly Senior masterfully directs this superb ensemble.  The outstanding Thebus and Kate Fry (Tess) transform onstage without their life’s burden. They are almost unrecognizable as they change over time. There are powerful scenes at the end between them and Hellman.  The trio are sharing family stories without regret or resentment. It’s an unforgettable and surreal. Nod out to the steadfast Nathan Hosner (Jon) who plays the perfect son-in-law and husband.

MARJORIE PRIME is about death, dying and the lingering leftover life stories. This show is sold out for the majority of the extended run.  I highly recommend purchasing a ticket ASAP!

Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission

At Writers Theatre, 664 Vernon, Glencoe

Written by Jordan Harrison

Directed by Kimberly Senior

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30pm

Saturdays at 3pm and 7:30pm

Sundays at 2pm and 6pm

EXTENDED thru March 13th

Buy tickets at

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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