The Other Place: A Raw Theatre Piece that Touches Upon a Deteriorating Mental Condition, Family, and Trauma

Currently Playing at Onstage Playhouse Until April 17 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardasht

Tina Machele Brown in The Other Place. Photo Daren Scott
The Other Place, a play written by the American playwright Sharr White, debuted Off-Broadway in 2011. A very real and now more than ever, relevant story that not only touches upon a deteriorating health condition but also the toll it takes on family members and how trauma can be a catalyst for changing things permanently.

Juliana (Tina Machelle Brown) is fifty-two years young, a driven professional, mother, and wife making breakthroughs as a scientist and promoting a new drug she discovered for treating dementia. While speaking at a convention, going through her slides, she spots a woman in a yellow bikini amongst all the suits. In her confusion and questioning about what is happening, different scenes from the past start interacting. She calls her daughter Laurel (Emily Jerez) who is married and has twin girls. There seems to be a conflict between them. We then see Juliana at home with her husband Ian (Nick Young) who is a doctor and it is him who clues the audience on what is happening as his wife assures him they are getting a divorce and demands to know who he is sleeping with. Juliana also constantly refers to "the other place", a cottage on Cape Cod that the family went frequently to on vacation with Laurel. The house has long been sold but Juliana in her confusion thinking she will meet Laurel there, ends up trespassing the new owner's premises who is dealing with her own issues that involve the property in a divorce. As she tends to Juliana who is hungry and thirsty, Ian arrives to pick her up and all the pieces start coming together. Laurel passed away tragically many years ago, there are no twins, and Julianna -ironically- is struggling with dementia.

Nick Young Tina Machele Brown. Photo Daren Scott
I consider this piece to be theatre in the raw, very creatively and purposefully put together starting with Duane McGregor's minimalistic scenic design consisting of grey walls and beige fabrics dropping that evoke a visual metaphor of the human brain deteriorating. Sandra Ruiz who directs and also is responsible for the costume design, I believed gave out clues through the wardrobe. Juliana sports an all-white suit that not only coincides with a doctor's lab coat, while actors Emely Jerez and Jaden Guerrero, described in the program as playing "The Man" and "The Woman" portraying several roles like a doctor, nurse, the new cottage owner, and Laurel's supposed husband, their clothes are in dark colors. Ian the husband is wearing a red sweater. The initial denial when a heartbreaking diagnosis comes and how we always play out the possible scenarios in disbelief...It all makes visual sense.

I mentioned that the topic is more relevant than ever because currently as we navigate through the strides of a worldwide pandemic, finally paying the deserved attention to mental health, work-life balance, and health, this play makes perfect sense. 

The performances are just as raw and strong as the piece itself. Something I greatly appreciated is that other incarnations of The Other Place have an all-white cast (shocker) while this production is diverse and the main couple is biracial reminding us what American theatre is and looks like.

The Other Place is currently playing from Thursday to Sunday until April 17. For ticket prices and performance times please click here.

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