Dorothy Silver takes on title role in Dobama production
Dobama Theatre continues its 58th season with the regional premiere of "Marjorie Prime" by Jordan Harrison. A finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, "Marjorie Prime" is an astute and provocative meditation on memory and family, set in the not-too-distant future.
In this future, it is possible to create artificially intelligent holograms of late family members. These so-called “primes” give people the opportunity to continue spending time with their lost loved ones, providing not only comfort, but also assisting with the fading memories of the elderly.
Dorothy Silver, one of Cleveland’s most reknowned actors, will portray the title character. Silver originally performed this role during the play’s staged reading at Cleveland Play House’s New Ground Festival in 2013, where Harrison received the Roe Green New Play Award. During that reading, Silver had the opportunity to meet and work directly with the playwright.
“Everything is compelling about this script and character,” said Silver. “I’ve wondered how a very young playwright in his 30s can understand the problems and questions that besiege older people. The kind of topics about family relationships that come up in this play are so sensitively observed . . . with a marvelous sense of humor. The laughs are surprising and real. The more I study the lines, the more amazed I am at his knowledge.”
Harrison based the character of Marjorie on his own grandmother, Ruth Lord, who died in 2009. His parents kept a diary of their daily trips to the assisted-living facility where she lived, which inspired and further informed the play.
Silver noted that the play has been rewritten and “enhanced” since that first reading four years ago, but that “it still speaks very specifically to me, as it will speak to many people of many ages.”
Silver reads a script over and over, several times a day, when she prepares for a role. “In order to understand the whole play, you have to read the whole play each time,” said Silver. "[Harrison] writes in a very spare, stripped-down style with very few adjectives. This leaves a tremendous amount to the imagination, but you have to understand the subtext, which is a large part of the job for me whenever I take on a role.”
Shannon Sindelar directs Dobama’s production with a cast that includes Nicholas Chokan, Derdriu Ring and Steve Sawicki.
"Marjorie Prime" runs Thursdays through Sundays, Oct. 13 to Nov. 12, at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $29–$32, with senior, student and military discounts available. Tickets for the preview performances on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 are $15, and the pay-as-you-can performance is Oct. 15.
For more information or to order tickets, call the box office at 216-932-3396. Tickets are available online at www.dobama.org.
Jonathan Wilhelm is a Cleveland playwright and actor.