BWW Review: THE OTHER PLACE is Difficult Subject Told in a Beautiful Way
Sharr White's THE OTHER PLACE premiered Off-Broadway in 2011, followed by a Broadway run. Watching this potent drama, you may think, at first, that your mind is playing tricks on you. Facts established in one scene vaporize a few scenes later. You may find yourself questioning what you just heard. THE OTHER PLACE lies somewhere between tragedy and mystery succeeding quite beautifully at both. This audience disconnect is no accident. Mr. White purposely keeps the audience questioning everything they are told by the play's narrator, a drug-company scientist named Juliana (Kat Sparks.) White writes with both simplicity and discipline about a situation that is anything but disciplined. Ms. Sparks' performance as Juliana is so commanding that the less we are sure of, the more we are are drawn in. While perceptions of this journey through life may continually shift, the one thing that doesn't is the riveting, nuanced performance of Ms. Sparks.
The play opens with Juliana giving a speech at a neurological convention. From there, we cut away to scenes with her doctor, phone calls from her missing daughter, and arguments with her husband about both the daughter and divorce. The one constant is her talking about "the other place", a Cape Cod cottage once owned by the family. Juliana becomes more and more argumentative with everyone and increasingly appears confused. Juliana is convinced she has a brain tumor stating that many relatives died of brain tumors at an early age. While Juliana's life seems to come unhinged, a mystery unfolds blurring fact with fiction and past with present, until the truth finally bursts to the surface.
Director Michael Costello has done a great job with this piece, keeping the ever shifting locales flowing. The scenic design, by Cheri Prough Devol, is elegant in its simplicity. Amy Lewis' lighting is also both simple and elegant. No credit was given in the program for the video projections which were also very good.
The four person cast is uniformly good. In addition to Ms. Sparks, Brianna Ripkowski portrays three roles so effectively you forget it is the same actress. Her final character is a study in acts of kindness. The male roles are rather underwritten, but Derek Jones and Devin W. Finn both give fine performances with what the playwright gave them to work with.
In the final analysis, THE OTHER PLACE is a sharp, smart examination of regret and the lengths a powerful mind will go to to shield itself from toxic memories. It is also a unique look at the onset of a debilitating condition that puts the audience in the middle of the experience.
THE OTHER PLACE by Sharr White
Running time: Approximately 75 Minutes with no intermission
THE OTHER PLACE, produced by Southwest Theatre Productions, at Trinity Street Black Box Theatre ( 901 Trinity St, Austin, TX 78701).
Thursdays-Sundays, November 04 - November 13, 2016
Thu. - Sat. 8 pm; Sundays 4 pm
General tickets $25
Seniors and Students - $22
Groups (6 or more General tickets) $22
MILITARY ALWAYS FREE