Review: ‘The Other Place’ An Adult Psychological Drama
The Other Place is a mystery for adults. It is not a whodunit or about the solving of a crime. It is the story of Juliana Smithton, a 53-year-old neurological research scientist whose life is wildly askew. It cleverly suggests alternate realities to account for the events that occur throughout the one-act play while judiciously revealing just what is happening over the course of its 80-minute length. The play cleverly teases with our minds and does not reveal its central secrets until the final few minutes. Because events are cleverly related to real life issues and traumas, and the characters (particularly, Juliana) are dimensionally drawn, this play often has the satisfying feel of being a serious, major play. However, on reflection, it becomes clear that what author Sharr White has given us is an intelligent, devilishly clever, and fully satisfying mystery melodrama.
As the principal virtue of The Other Place is its brilliant structure and plotting, in order not to dilute its pleasures, I must exercise extreme caution in describing events. Several years ago, Juliana discovered her high school student daughter Laurel having sex with her research associate Richard in her Cape Cod vacation home. Richard was 15 years older than Laurel. This led to Laurel running away from home. Juliana vengefully pursued legal action against Richard, ruining his reputation and career. Laurel moved in with Richard, with whom she has two young daughters, and ceased all contact with her parents. However, lately Laurel has been in telephone contact with Juliana, to her husband Ian’s consternation. Their conflicts have placed Juliana and Ian’s marriage in jeopardy. Recently Juliana had collapsed mentally while delivering a paper at a neurological conference and has been seeing a physician. There is fear that she might be suffering from brain cancer.
Harriett Trangucci precisely weaves the complex emotions of Juliana into a moving and fully fledged portrait of a strong woman trying to cope with a situation for which it is impossible to prepare. As narrator and principal protagonist, Trangucci is our guide as she takes us along on her painful and fearful journey to truth and understanding. She portrays the hurt that stark vulnerability brings to one who was certain of her ability to take care of herself.
The versatile Harry Patrick Christian shows us a solidly believable, sympathetic Ian cracking under the weight of an untenable situation. At a couple of moments when an emotionally overwrought Ian loses control, Christian’s performance would benefit from a bit more control. Jessica O’Hara-Baker brings verisimilitude to very disparate women including the estranged Laurel and Juliana’s doggedly professional physician. Dave Maulbeck nicely rounds out the cast portraying Richard and other roles.
Director Clark Carmichael has tautly directed, keeping the play in sharp perspective.
When interviewed for The New York Times in connection with Laurie Metcalf opening on Broadway in the role of Juliana in The Other Place last season, author Sharr White said that, while it was hard to picture anyone but Ms. Metcalf in this central role “every regional theater has a very strong leading woman who they turn to again and again. And it makes sense to find roles for these people.” I would add that, at Dreamcatcher Rep, New Jersey’s outstanding actors’ collective, Harriet Trangucci and director Clark Carmichael are happily demonstrating the ability of regional theatre to provide strong performances in quality productions of new American plays with their current production of The Other Place.
“Jessica O’Hara-Baker brings verisimilitude to very disparate women.”
By Bob Rendell for Talkin’ Broadway | February 2, 2013
“Harriett Trangucci precisely weaves the complex emotions of Juliana into a moving and fully fledged portrait of a strong woman.” “The versatile Harry Patrick Christian shows us a solidly believable, sympathetic Ian.”
“Dave Maulbeck nicely rounds out the cast.”
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“Director Clark Carmichael has tautly directed, keeping the play in sharp perspective.”
Bob Rendell, Talkin’ Broadway