BWW Review: Battling Dementia in THE OTHER PLACE at Theatre Tuscaloosa
"The Other Place" by Sharr White is a play exposing the struggle of adjusting to declining mental ability. It's a heart-tugging and at times funny story of a sharp and empowered woman fighting with a splintering mental health dilemma. White's writing brings to light the frustration of dementia. The play gives a voice to those suffering with dementia and the effect on their caregivers. "The Other Place" opens with Juliana (Carol DeVelice) giving narration to her backstory as a successful scientist and businesswoman. With each line Juliana's mental stability slowly begins to crack like a broken window in a storm. Her confusion leads to a string of unsettling events. Juliana suffers lack of focus and speech, memory loss and repeated sightings of a young woman in a yellow polka dot bikini. She is stubborn as a nail and rejects any diagnosis, except her own hypochondriac self-diagnosis of having brain cancer. DeVelice gives limitless emotion into Juliana exhausting internal journey on stage. Scene after scene her frustration builds to boiling points to be forgotten by another train of thought.
Her loving husband Ian (Westcott Youngston) is also loosing patience with her and himself. Youngston gives an abundance of warmth to this man desperately trying to help his wife. The Woman (Jennifer Guffin) plays multiple women in Juliana's journey, including a doctor and her daughter. Guffin shows her chops at being diverse in her character work. The Man (Will Nevin) is also an everyman in the play. Nevin brings range and strong character work also. Director Kiera Gillock takes appropriate care to ensure you soon become emotionally invested due to the honest representation of the characters. Surprisingly, there is great comedy woven into the story. It makes a nice break from the serious tones and the show is stronger for it.
I spoke with the cast to get some insight on their process. Gillock finds a ray of comfort in the direction of the play. "The idea of loosing yourself to this disease is terrifying. But the play shows that there can be peace in this illness. To find beauty in something so devastating is comforting." Westcott Youngson was able to get inspiration for his role by pulling from his own life experience. At a young age he was a caregiver to his grandfather who suffered with dementia. Tapping into those deep-rooted feelings and emotions was a personal challenge. "I had trouble processing the emotions. I don't think I ever did. I felt guilt. I was frustrated and not understanding where it is coming from and what's wrong." He eventually found resolve in preparation for the role. " I think art can do that; it can help you examine yourself. I feel like I am a stronger and better person for doing this show." Carol DeVelice pours her heart and soul into her touching performance of Juliana. She travels in and out moments and memories like a firecracker. Her flip of the switch delivery of tenderness to rage is striking and authentic. "It is exhausting and an adventure knowing where her mind is." Her performance carries you on an adventure you may find familiar to your life or someone you know.
This play provokes thought and may open up some shoeboxes in your own closet of unresolved issues. Theatre Tuscaloosa is offering "The Other Place" for this weekend only. It closes on Saturday night. This wonderful theater experience is a steal for only $8. If you are able to make it to Tuscaloosa this weekend its well worth the drive.
Theatre Tuscaloosa's Second Stage
The Other Place
Written by Sharr White
Director: Kiera Gillock
Hosted at The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center
620 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
For tickets and info call (205) 391-2277 or visit www.theatretusc.com
***This play is intended for mature audiences***
Tickets - $8
Thursday, August 10 - 7:30 PM
Friday, August 11 - 7:30 PM
Saturday, August 12 - 2:00 PM
Saturday, August 12 - 7:30 PM
* - PHOTO CREDITS - P. Solorzano.