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'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Otherplace

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.

MetcalfWhite'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.

Otherplace2Juliana'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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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar.

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Comments

  1. Don't miss it. Laurie Metcalf will win the TONY.

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Jan 15, 2013 2:11:59 PM


  2. I love Aunt Jackie! She is also great on The Big Bang Theory.

    Posted by: DAN | Jan 15, 2013 2:30:45 PM


  3. She was cast with Patti LuPone to the new Mamet play The Anarchist. I guess she now knows she made the right decision.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jan 15, 2013 3:08:54 PM


  4. The play is only 70 minutes long, so you don't have to worry about missing your favorite tv shows. I imagine the prices are the same high ones that full-length shows get.

    Posted by: Ken | Jan 15, 2013 3:53:09 PM


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    Posted by: Julia Brown | Jan 15, 2013 4:06:03 PM


  6. Laurie Metcalf (who I legitimately think is nuts in real life) is a treasure. She should be a featured player on a good HBO/AMC type series so more people can see her talent.

    Posted by: Robert | Jan 15, 2013 5:09:33 PM


  7. Naveen -- better job of clear writing about his play than previous ones, congrats! I would still prefer you consider than long reviews which tell the story of the play seem meant for "theater fanatic" websites, not for a general interest site like this.

    Posted by: Bob | Jan 15, 2013 6:03:47 PM


  8. Saw this during the previews last week. Laurie Metcalf was excellent! Won't give it away, but the playright has you jumping to concusions throughout. Most interesting is that the 4 stars stay after the play for a live question and answer session with the audience.

    Posted by: Steve in DC | Jan 16, 2013 3:25:20 AM


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