Review: “Marjorie Prime” at the Olney Theatre Center

Technology can be used to help us be more efficient, remain organized, stay connected with anyone in the world, and instantly find answers to any question. Artificial intelligence used to only be found in science fiction stories, but robots are quickly becoming a reality. In the Pulitzer Prize nominated play, Marjorie Prime, the Olney Theatre Center is taking its audiences to a not-so-distant future where holograms (or ‘primes’) the spitting image of loved ones can be purchased and programmed to embody the essence of a deceased family member.

The program from the Olney Theatre Center's production of "Marjorie Prime."
The program from the Olney Theatre Center’s production of “Marjorie Prime.”

The humans in the show speak so easily to the primes but choose not to talk to each other about the challenges they are facing as a family. Sound familiar? It is so easy for us to vent our frustrations and share our opinions on social media, but as a collective whole we do not confront issues face-to-face. I found that parallel playwright Jordan Harrison concluded in his show brilliant.

Based on a hologram being told stories and interacting with humans, can the consciousness of who the A.I. represents successfully result? Do not be deceived or deterred by the show’s premise. Even though actors are portraying artificial intelligence on stage, this show is about relationships. The intimacy of the Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab makes audiences feels as though they are eavesdropping on the unraveling of a family. The show’s Director, Jason Loewith, should be happy to know there were moments where I felt I should leave the theater because I forgot I was watching a play and wanted to give the family privacy to sort out their issues.

The quartet cast was excellent. Outstanding performances were by Kathleen Butler (Marjorie) and Julie-Ann Elliott (Tess) who successfully transformed from human characters to their primes in back-to-back scenes just by the range of their acting talent.

I have seen many shows in my lifetime, most of which I would consider entertainment. Very few I would consider art.  Marjorie is a perfect (or dare I say, prime) example of art because art’s purpose is to challenge how we think. Has technology truly advanced us as a society? Do not miss your opportunity to see the thought-provoking Helen Hayes Recommended play, Marjorie Prime, at the Olney Theatre Center through April 10, 2016.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own ticket to see this show, and the opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

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