'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
BY NAVEEN KUMAR
Among the most arresting moments in Joe Mantello's superb production of Sharr White's The Other Place, which opened on Broadway last week at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman theatre, are those that dramatize sudden shocks to the system—like a stomach plunging through the floor, a heart skipping a beat, or the prickly heat that courses through the body after a terrifying realization.
White's psychological drama stars Laurie Metcalf in a magnetic and wrenching performance as Juliana Smithton, a neuroscientist who has developed a drug that may lead to a major breakthrough in brain cancer treatment. As the play begins, Metcalf's character recounts the experience of a strange mental episode she suffered while delivering a routine lecture at a medical conference in the Virgin Islands.
A commanding orator accustomed to addressing large roomfuls of doctors, Metcalf's Juliana inspires the sort of objective certainty duly associated with successful scientists. The lecture in question seems no different at first, but her indelible self-possession is rattled by the appearance of a young woman in a yellow bikini sitting among the buttoned-up docs. Her preoccupation with this anomalous, scantily clad visitor leads Juliana to make a number of stray remarks before she's ultimately rendered speechless.
Juliana's retelling of the bizarre incident is interspersed with scenes of her ensuing visits to a young female doctor, as well as conversations in her troubled marriage to a respected oncologist (Daniel Stern). Back in her hotel room after the lecture, there is also a phone call to her long-estranged daughter, with whom she and her husband lost contact many years ago. Metcalf's talented off-stage daughter, Zoe Perry, plays her daughter on stage, in addition to the young doctor, and a third character near the play's conclusion.
Under Mantello's smooth and intelligent direction, White's carefully assembled mystery of a troubled mind unravels seamlessly. Punctuated by unnerving moments of revelation, the production imagines the chilling experience of losing a grip on one's identity and basic understanding of the world. The play opens up into a rabbit hole of sorts, in which assumption becomes slippery and emotions easily overwhelming.
Slick and imaginative visual elements, including a collage-like floating assembly of wooden frames, beautiful projection and lighting design, are integral to the production's propulsive storytelling.
MTC's production of The Other Place follows the play's world premiere Off Broadway at Manhattan Class Company (MCC) in 2011. Metcalf earned both an Obie and Lucille Lortel Award for her acclaimed performance in the Off Broadway run, also directed by Mantello.
The Other Place continues performances on Broadway through February 2nd at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
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