Marjorie Prime is a gem, a poignant and precise chamber piece with excellent performances by the quartet of actors. Translated and directed by Tsviki Levin, Jordan Harrison’s play has an intriguing premise: in this fictional future, it is possible to create a Prime, a holographic projection of a deceased loved one that can be programmed with the individual’s characteristics and memories. Attentive to nuances, the play is a reflection on identity, memory and relationships.
Miriam Zohar shines in the role of Marjorie, an 85-year-old woman whose memory is failing. Marjorie’s son-in-law Jon (Ohad Shachar) thinks that she will benefit and be comforted by the presence of a Prime (Avishai Meridor), who is a younger version of her late husband Walter. Programmed with memories of their life together, Walter can help Marjorie remember and relive happy moments. However, her daughter Tess (Odeya Koren), rejects the intrusion of Walter Prime, finding it disturbing that Marjorie speaks to this technological phenomenon as though he were her husband.
Walter Prime’s presence in the household and Marjorie’s cognitive and physical decline provide a framework for exploring issues of relationships, memory, love and the eternal question – what makes us human? As Marjorie converses with Walter Prime, his attitude is devoted and attentive. Yet as he was programmed to behave thus, is his devotion therefore less real? When Walter recalls a shared experience, Marjorie is not pleased with some of its aspects, and tweaks the memory, altering some of the facts and requesting that Walter remember the new version. Yet is this manipulation of memories so vastly different from the processes that go on in our minds, whether consciously or subconsciously, when we remember the past? Is the comfort of Walter Prime’s company false because his character is programmed? Is programmed empathy somehow worth “less”? Who do we see when we gaze at our loved ones? Do we see them as they are, or is what we perceive a projection of our own wishes and fears? As the play unfolds, these issues are the subtext of a moving human drama. Within the family’s is a secret wound, a painful memory. Should Marjorie be protected from this sorrow, and as she loses her memory, be reminded only of happy events?
Avishai Meridor is a tender Walter Prime, in his portrayal of the programmable persona capturing some of the innocence of childhood as his machine brain seeks to learn. Ohad Shachar and Odeya Koren capture the tensions and intimacy of marriage, as well as the delicate balance of changing relationships. Jon is all about healing, showering Marjorie with affection despite the fact that, she did not much like her new son-in-law. Tess struggles with the role reversal of caring for an aging mother, as well as her conflicting feelings. Watching 87-year-old Miriam Zohar as Marjorie is sheer delight! She has a powerful stage presence, imbuing the character with charisma, humor, and a depth of emotion. One feels her pain as she struggles to remember a “someone” who eludes her grasp, as she listens to Vivaldi’s Winter, eyes sparkling, her radiance lights up the stage.
By Jordan Harrison
Translated and directed by Tsviki Levin; Set and Costume Design: Zohar Almaliah; Lighting Design: Lior Meytal; Music Editing: Tsviki Levin; Cast: Marjorie – Miriam Zohar, Tess – Odeya Koren, Jon – Ohad Shahar, Walter – Avishai Meridor