Exit Strategy Cast

Forward Theater's current season is described by artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray as the "what's next" season as each play looks toward the future. In their winter production "Exit Strategy" a group of Chicago Public School teachers looked to their own futures as their school prepares to close. From left: Nicholas Harazin, Marques Causey, Daniel Torres-Rangel, Lachrisa Grandberry, Rana Roman and Jim Buske.

For director Jennifer Uphoff Gray, “Marjorie Prime” is more than a “Black Mirror”-esque play with deep roots. It’s personal.

“If I had the option to have a robot that looked like my mother and sounded like my mother and that had all of her memories that could have a conversation and that the robot knew all my mother knew and could give the advice my mother gave, most of my being says ‘hell yes,’” she said. “Then my brain says ‘let’s put the brakes on this.’”

Placing emotionally difficult questions against ever evolving technology is what makes this play so fascinating, according to Uphoff Gray.

The 2014 play, a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist, circles in on 85-year-old Marjorie whose memories are quickly fading. Luckily she has a companion in Walter who is programmed to give her back the details of her life. That robotic companion is an exact replica of her, now deceased, husband in his younger days. Walter is known as a Prime which is a robot designed to bring back memories to those who are quickly losing their own.

It’s ultimately an exploration of the lines between human identity and technological advancements.

“Marjorie Prime” runs April 5 through 22 at Overture Center.

Uphoff Gray believes that the quandaries presented by the play will be well received by Forward Theater’s main base of subscribers, but hopes that it draws in new audiences as well — particularly because of its similarities to the popular series “Black Mirror.”

“Part of what is so terrifying about ‘Black Mirror’ is that it’s so cold,” Uphoff Gray said. “Because as television it can be distant. You’re watching stories of technology conveyed by technology. This is a chance to watch it live with human beings a few rows away from you.”

The cast of four — Brian Mani, Judy Kimball, Michael Huftile and Karen Moeller — will have to wrestle with the concept of what makes a person human. That exploration of human character is something Uphoff Gray is “really looking forward to.”


Amanda Finn is an arts and lifestyle reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.