The Future of the Magnificent Marjorie Prime at the Playwrights Horizons
It’s quite a little set up. Takes us all a bit to understand where we are and what we are seeing, but Jordon Harrison’s Marjorie Prime, directed by Anne Kauffman, is worth every minute. This is a futuristic play steeped in realism and mortality. It’s a play about our foreseeable future, when we look back into our memories, and hopeful remember moments that we will cherish, when current silly Julia Roberts movies are worthy of reminiscing; when a Beyonce song is an old ditty we can’t quite remember, but also can’t get out of our heads. This is our possible future, and what we may have to look forward to. But also, it’s about how we will handle living, dying, and most importantly mourning and memories.
The whole 80-minute play takes place in this stylized futuristic apartment, brilliantly sparse and simplistically designed by Laura Jellinek and light by Ben Stanton (sound design: Daniel Kluger). Costumes by Jessica Pabst are smartly simple yet realistic, from a possible not-so-far-off future. There is a true beauty in this idea of future and also a bit of sadness and loss for our humanity. The production is designed so well, and so real and believable.
Lois Smith is just incredible in the title role. I was engaged with her from the first moment she speaks. I’m going to try very hard to not give away anything of the plot, so everyone can experience this story in the same way I was lucky enough to have witnessed. I went in knowing very little except that I adore Lois Smith, and I am so glad I knew nothing. I will add that there really isn’t a lead character in this play except maybe in the familial centeredness. Smith is the mother and wife, and all revolves around her emotionally and spiritually, but Lisa Emery as Tess the daughter and Stephen Root as the son-in-law are spectacular; equally as invested and real. We are blessed to experience and pay witness to this true piece of family engagement. Noah Bean is perfect as Walter Prime. But I’ll say no more.
There is a sweetness and a sadness in this family in the way they look back, much to remember, and a lot that they would like to change or forget and erase. Is this a possibility? Do we want to remember all that happens, or forget the painful parts? Should we, as Tess says at one point, “Let her be” but I think the play says the opposite. The last scene of Marjorie Prime may disagree with Tess, and say that we are more human humans if we are fully informed and remember all.