Heartland Theatre explores the mysteries of human memory and identity while confronting the complexities of family relationships in their its production, “Marjorie Prime.”
Directed by Heartland stalwart Don LaCasse, “Marjorie Prime” takes audiences to the intersection where technology and memory connect. The script’s focus is 85-year-old Marjorie, who is suffering from dementia. The illness tests her mettle, while it also puts a strain on her relationship with her daughter, Tess, and son-in-law, John. And then there’s the character of Walter.
“Walter is Marjorie’s deceased husband,” explained LaCasse. “But I promise you he’s not a ghost.”
Although it’s never really mentioned in the play, artificial intelligence plays an important role in “Marjorie Prime.” Even more important is memory ... or loss of memory.
“Marjorie’s memory is deteriorating. The caregivers try to help her remember things as much as possible. And sometimes stories change, and stories are a big way that they try to help Marjorie, by telling her stories.”
“I think one of the most powerful parts of the play is when the character of John tells his wife Tess, ‘How much does she have to forget before she’s not your mom anymore?’ And I think any of us that have dealt with severe dementia can probably identify with that.”
Fabrication competes with real memory in the play.
“As the characters pass on stories, there’s the capability of change to the stories. Should we be changing the stories? Is the story truthful? Or is it augmented or whatever. It's a very recognizable situation.”
The cast includes Kathleen Kirk as Marjorie. And playing husband and wife, John and Tess are real life husband and wife, Rhys and Devon Lovell. LaCasse admitted that relationship brings in an interesting dynamic to the production.
“It lends a sense of believability. They know what buttons to push, they know how the other one responds to things, there’s lots of nonverbal communication. And they’re both wonderful actors, so it’s a great treat to work with them.”
“Marjorie Prime” runs at Heartland Theatre in Normal Feb. 7–23.
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