Author Archive for: ‘KedarAdour’

THE OTHER PLACE an engrossing medical mystery at the Magic

THE OTHER PLACE: Drama by Sharr White and directed by Loretta Greco. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123. 415.441.8822 or www.magictheatre.org. September 12 – October 7, 2012.

THE OTHER PLACE an engrossing medical mystery at the Magic

Magic Theatre and Artistic Director Loretta Greco continue there love affair with multi award winner Sharr White mounting a very engrossing The Other Place that is somewhat a medical mystery as the lead character Juliana (Henny Russell) descends into a morass of confused memory. Just as AIDS was the medical mystery in last night’s ACT production of The Normal Heart, mental illness, often referred to as Alzheimer’s, takes center stage in this West Coast premier that is heading for Broadway in 2013.

Performing it here under the auspices of the Magic is an excellent decision since this local group has rightfully earned the reputation as a great place to smooth out any rough spots in the text and production. Comparing the written text with the staging reflects that changes are being made and there probably will be some minor fixes to remove ambiguity.

That being said, just as the causes of mental illness are ambiguous it is appropriate that the audience accept the ambiguities of the staging as part of Greco’s overall directorial conceits. Have you ever thought of problems attempting to of portray present action, past events and mental cognition simultaneously and making sense of it?

First, cast a superb actor in that role and they have done that by importing talented Henny Russell from Broadway. (In the scheduled NYC production Laurie Metcalf will repeat the role that she played in the award winning Off-Broadway staging). Then surround her with a top-notch a supporting cast that includes our own local favorite Carrie Paff (The Woman) and Donald Sage Mackay (Ian). Patrick Russell does yeoman duty as The Man with multiple small parts.

Of equal importance is the technical crew of Brando Wolcott (sound), Eric Southern (lighting), video (Hana Kim) necessary to make the shifts from present, past and mental ruminations understandable. With minor exceptions they are flawless.

Juliana is a brilliant scientist and “the original patent holder” of a new drug to cure brain lesions “with sales projected to exceed one billion dollars a month.” The play is non-linear reflecting and reinforcing the vacillating thoughts in her mind.

While giving a lecture to a group of doctors about the structure and effects of this new drug with slides projected on a stark white rear wall, her amplified lecture switches to her mental thoughts delivered un-amplified as an explanatory monolog to the audience. While addressing the doctors, Juliana envisions a young girl in a yellow bikini in the audience. This triggers a mental collapse and she is returned to her home and husband Ian and mention of “the other place” becomes a paramount importance.

The interaction between Ian and Juliana is cataclysmic, as her mind switches between real past events and auditory fantasies about a daughter that disappeared years ago. When the probable truth is blurted out by Ian in abject frustration it is a devastating suggestion.

Interposed between the Ian/Juliana scenes are her visits to a neuropyschiatrist (Carrie Paff dressed in clinical garb [costumes by Myung Hee Cho]) that are both humorous and frustrating. In a later scene the white projection screen opens and we are in the “other place”, a Cape Cod cottage formerly owned by Ian/Juliana but now owned by The Woman played by Paff.

Juliana has traveled to the cottage and her encounter with The Woman leads to a beautiful scene as Paff grasps the turmoil within Juliana and assumes the role of the missing daughter before Ian arrives to take her away. Before the final scene where we learn the identity of girl in the yellow bikini (marvelous video projections), Sharr White inserts a short scene where Juliana is probably going off to a sanitarium.  It is not as dramatic as Blanche’s “I have always been dependent on the kindness of strangers” but it works. Running time 80 minutes and worth every minute of your time.

Kedar Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com