Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Other Place @ Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

The complexity of the human mind is amazing. Cures for diseases, designs for more fuel

efficient vehicles, and just about anything you can think of comes from the brain. It is an endless

storage space where all of our ideas and fondest memories are stored, and it is the most important

tool that mankind has at its disposal. The horrifying part about it is that one minute it can be

there and working to the best of its ability, and the next it can create illusions that adulterate even

one’s fondest memories. Sharr White’s new play The Other Place explores the fragility of the

mind, and that one can do when their thoughts betray them.

The plot of this play focuses Dr. Juliana Smithson, played by Laurie Metcalf, and her

having an “episode” during a presentation in front of her colleagues and begins to show signs of

dementia. Her husband Ian, played by Daniel Stern, tries to get her to come to terms with her

illness, but Smithson avoids his help and persistently tries to reconnect with their daughter that

ran away more than ten years before there were any signs of her disease.

Metcalf, best known for her role on the hit sitcom Roseanne, gave a great performance in

this role. She does not go too far overboard with her insanity, and she is able to let her dementia

develop both internally and externally. Her physicalization of the character’s disease was done

flawlessly, and it was really heartbreaking to watch her rapid decline. 

Playing opposite of Metcalf was Daniel Stern (Home Alone). Stern’s character was

trying to get his wife help, and Sharr White did a fine job of writing this character especially.

Stern found a great balance between love for his wife and the frustration with her illness. He has

a light-heartedness about him a very nice compliment to Metcalf’s harshness. Stern gives a

splendid performance and shows that he is more than capable of doing something other than just

being a funny guy.

The technical aspects of this production were every bit as impressive as the acting.

Scenic designers Edward Pierce and Eugene Lee created a set out of empty white picture frames

that was very interesting and served the play very well. Everything from the doors to the

bathroom mirror was made of these empty picture frames, and it set the mood of the production

from the second that the play began. This coupled with the flickering blue lights that would

interrupt Juliana’s story periodically really gave the feeling of being inside the mind of someone

who is losing their thoughts.

Director Joe Mantello took Sharr White’s new play and did wonderful things with it. The

production was very enjoyable as a whole, and really left the audience effected at the end. The

Other Place is definitely worth seeing, and it will provide a theatrical experience that you will

not soon forget.

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