It’s the future. Technology has advanced to the point where artificial intelligence and holographic technology can summon a lifelike recreation of someone who has long since passed away. What would the implications be on the real people left behind? How much of your past would you be willing to revisit?
These tantalizing questions lie at the center of Jordan Harrison’s play Marjorie Prime, a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Before a big screen production of the story hits cinemas nationwide with a mid-2017 release, see the story on the Toledo stage when it debuts Friday, May 5.
The not-too-distant future
“It’s a play that happens in the not-too-distant future, when artificial intelligence has progressed to the point where people who have passed can come back to comfort somebody in their old age,” said Jeff Albright, director of the Glacity Theatre Collective’s production. “So rather than a traditional caregiver, or a grief counselor, people bring back a loved one to comfort them.”
The show is centered around an octogenarian woman suffering from dementia— played by Toledo theater veteran Barbara Barkin— who is given a holographic vision of her deceased husband as a young man to accompany her. Albright himself suggested the play be considered for Glacity’s theatrical season, as the show’s themes have fascinated him since he first encountered it.
“I liked what it says about how we change the history in our past to be more palatable,” he said.
Good old days?
Indeed, one of the show’s strongest ideas seems to reject the grip of nostalgia, instead, reminding us that our recollections often work to erase the negatives of our past.
“A lot of times we remember just the good parts… like when you hear people talk about the ‘good old days’— they weren’t always good. [In the play], we learn some of the history that the title character has simply chosen to forget, or has simply buried under layers and layers, from ancillary characters.”
For a show that deals in such big ideas and futuristic settings, the core elements of the piece are fairly small in number— the script features only four characters, and Albright said he has tried to maintain an understated feel throughout the production.
“The language of the play is very sparse, there’s a lot of silence. The set will be very sparse— the necessary pieces of furniture that need to be there. Because I don’t want it to be, like a ‘Jetsons’ future. We think about how, this play could be in a few years. It’s contemporary. I don’t want it to look like something from a space movie.”
Love in crisis
Albright is getting a chance to introduce this story to local audiences before Hollywood— the film adaption starring Jon Hamm and Geena Davis recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival with favorable reviews.
“I hope they leave thinking how we respond to loved ones while they’re in crisis is important,” Albright said of Toledo audiences. “Because all the characters, at some point, have a crisis. And underneath all the sort of family drama, and bruised egos, and hurts from the past, each one of them truly love one another.”
8pm, Friday-Saturday. 2pm, Sunday.
May 5-7 and 12-14.
The University of Toledo Center for Performing Arts Studio Theatre
2801 W. Bancroft St. | 419-277-3492 | glacity.org