Lois Smith and Frank Wood ~Photo by Craig Schwartz
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Sometimes it’s difficult to label a play in the traditional manner: Is it a drama, a comedy, is it both, or is it a mystery? In the case of the World Premiere production ”Marjorie Prime”, now on stage at the Mark Taper Forum, it’s a safe bet to say that it’s a little bit all of the aforementioned.

L-R: Lisa Emery, Frank Wood and Lois Smith ~ Photo by Craig Schwartz
L-R: Lisa Emery, Frank Wood and Lois Smith ~
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Written by young (37), seasoned, award-winning playwright Jordan Harrison, and directed by Obie winner Les Waters, “Marjorie Prime” is an outside-the-box creative and enigmatic story- premise whose time has come. And, it all takes place in less than 100 minutes.

What takes place on the stage of the Taper is playwright Harrison’s thought provoking “Marjorie Prime” drama of the future. It’s the sort of story that is right up director Les Waters’ alley, and one that writer Rod Serling would, most assuredly endorse. Despite all of the electronics and gadgetry in our tech-heavy society, human stories are still the most engaging and interesting.

The play asks questions about the difference between a life lived and a life remembered in this, at times, very poignant drama. Everyone’s life is filled with laughter and tears. And Harrison hasn’t left out any of the irony or the comedy in Marjorie’s story. It’s how we juggle and accept or reject life’s events that makes one’s journey so compelling and interesting.

Marjorie Prime Photo 12
Jeff Ward, Lois Smith~ Photo by Craig Schwartz

The story in short, is set in motion by Marjorie (a wonderfully wry Lois Smith) a clever woman who at age 85 finds her memory is failing. She is living out her days at an assisted living facility where she is frequently visited by her anxious daughter Tess (Lisa Emery) and her kind, easygoing son-in-law, Jon (Frank Wood). With the urging of Jon and the facility and despite Tess’ misgivings, a mysterious young man, Walter (Jeff Ward), joins the group with the hope that he can help reverse Marjorie’s decline. Through an ingenious series of shifting realities, Walter’s nature is revealed, and the family’s memories gently unfold into a cathartic meditation on life and loss, and the desire to keep our dearly departed with us.

Lois Smith and Frank Wood ~Photo by Craig Schwartz
Lois Smith and Frank Wood ~Photo by Craig Schwartz

There is no test to be given at the end of the play, but Harrison and Waters definitely challenge the audience to be patient; stay engaged and focused on the story in order to fully appreciate the magic that is taking place in front of them by these four talented actors. The splendidly executed ensemble paints a portrait of a future society we may all be destined to confront one day like it or not. So, pay attention and discover the relevancy of what’s being said on the stage. It may come in handy.

The Taper’s technical credits are always first rate and this production is no exception. Director Waters leads a creative team that includes: Set Designer Mimi Lien who provides a spare, monochromatic and functional stage, along with Lighting Designer Lap Chi Chu’s mood-inducing lighting that meets the look required for the assisted living requirement.

“Marjorie Prime” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if one goes with the flow and vision of the director and the ideas behind the playwright’s imagination, it can be an intriguing, provocative, and interesting evening in the theatre. The production runs through October 19, 2014.