Review by Tulis McCall
(29 Mar 2011)
This one had me from the first moment. This is a thriller wrapped up in a mystery disguised as a memoir. And all are superbly conducted by Laurie Metcalf who plays Juliana Smithton, a brilliant woman who is now at the vulnerable center of her own life. She has lost control but not enough so that she can stand up and be counted in her own narration. As played by Metcalf this woman is defensive and engaging at the same time. She invites us in to her life, and not only do we enter willingly, we stay when the going gets tough and the tough have begun to rethink their choices.
We follow Juliana as she experiences medical “episodes” that leave her gasping and vulnerable and shift her into an attack mode that comes over her like a hot flash. Neither her husband nor her new doctor (Aya Cash) are safe. Juliana is also not safe from her own self.
I feel like a kid in Fifth Grade who is giving a book report on a mystery novel. My last sentence would have been “If you want to find out how this story ends, you will have to read Blah Blah Blah.” And that is pretty much the story here. To tell you too much would be to ruin this complicated tale so well written by Shar White and directed by Joe Mantello.
It is a credit to White’s writing that, days later, I am still thinking about this family and their fate. A crisp life comes unglued when a daughter crosses a line and one of the parents responds in kind. Obviously the walls surrounding these folk had shown signs of wear long before we hear the tale. But we come in long after when, following the disappearance of their daughter, life has lost its oxygen. Juliana’s career as a research scientist devolves into sales pitches for a drug company. Her husband Ian Smithton (Dennis Boutsikaris) will be leaving his career as an oncologist.
This is a complete story that clocks in at around 45 minutes. If anything, we could use a second act, but it is not necessary. The addition of the final two scenes, therefore, is so jarring it makes one wonder if they were simply added to pad the production and bring it to a solid 75 minutes. The first of the two has great merit and might become a second act at some point. But the final scene is simply ludicrous – even though it is played beautifully by Metcalf and Cash.
White leads us through a minefield of facts and events that in lesser hands than Metcalf’s might be pretentious and maudlin. Even with the final two scenes tacked on to its tail, this is an extraordinary piece of theatre, and we can forward to more from Mr. White.
"Dominated by a compelling, at times scarily intense performance from Laurie Metcalf."
Charles Isherwood for NY Times
"We may be in the middle of an exceptionally rich spring season at the theater, but it'd be a shame if this tour de force got lost in the fray."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for NY Post
"Laurie Metcalf proves yet again that she is one of our finest actors ... Under Joe Mantello's disciplined, keenly intuitive direction, the 80-minute show takes nary a false step as it comes together piece by piece to form a harrowing and moving tale."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"Mystery plays have two parts: the mystification and the explanation. Sharr White's 'The Other Place,' is, like most plays in the genre, better at the first element."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"The grim nature of White’s play is formidable indeed but the artistry with which he relates this story – how the dramatic structure itself reflects the protagonist’s deceptive state of mind – is impressive."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Metcalf's impassioned performance is amazing."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety