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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Marjorie Prime" @ Artists Rep

Well, at least I'm not the only one. Prior to curtain at Opening Night at "Majorie Prime" I chatted as I often do with an usher. She mentioned that the play was a strange-read, and mused that perhaps the forthcoming film version would make things clearer.

The play is a mere 75 minutes, which seems far too short to explore as many plot-lines as "Marjorie Prime" does. Scene One worked fine for me, and delved into a few themes I find particularly interesting, given my disability.  Namely, the replacement of human caregivers with robots. The questions raised by such a shift are fertile territory for drama, and to my knowledge the only work of art to tackle it thus far is the obscure film "Robot & Frank," which spends much of its time as a robot-assisted heist movie. "Majorie Prime" does address some of the expected issues, such as, the patient obeying the robot in matters of nutrition more readily than a human relative, and adds a layer of complexity because the robot can be made to appear as a person of their choosing, in this case, the deceased husband of the patient. There are also engaging moments dealing with caring for a relative with whom you have unresolved conflicts.

But then, things take a turn. Suddenly the play is no longer about the aforementioned themes. Scenes Two and Three revolve around using the robots not as replacements for caregivers, but rather replacements for psychologists, as tools to work out trauma caused by deceased people. I found these scenes much less interesting, especially since all scenes up to this point have included a large portion devoted to "programming" the robot with memories, a process that reminded me of monotonously calibrating a speech-to-text program. There are seemingly important details about the "truth" of a certain situation that vary depending upon who is doing the programming and whom they are programming, but the information revealed in these sessions remains unclear to me. But, all of that pales in comparison to the final-scene, which is the most frustratingly murky scene in recent memory. I have a guess as to what happens, but no idea what it's supposed to mean.....

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