Saturday, April 11, 2015

"The Other Place" at Park Square Theatre

The Other Place is the name of the play now playing in Park Square Theatre's "other place," the new Andy Boss thrust stage* that opened just last fall. Even though it still smells like new construction, it already feels like a solid and necessary part of Park Square's programming. It allows room for plays like this, a short, compact, and impactful story of a woman in crisis and the people that love her.

Juliana is a top neuroscientist who has discovered a breakthrough drug that she is promoting to doctors around the world. While lecturing at a conference in St. Thomas, she has what she calls an "episode." She assumes that it's brain cancer because of a family history, but perhaps it's something different and even more scary. She's convinced her husband is cheating on her and filing for a divorce, even though he appears nothing but supportive. Something isn't quite right about her relationship with her daughter, who ran away years ago. All of this unfolds almost in a stream of consciousness sort of way, as we move around in time, place, memory, and possible hallucinations. The plot is like a puzzle, with pieces falling into place until we finally get the whole picture of what's going on with Juliana and what happened to her daughter. It's almost like we're inside Juliana's head as she struggles to make sense of a life she no longer recognizes.

James A. Williams and Linda Kelsey
(photo by Petronella J Ytsma)
The story is brought to life on the sparse and breezy set through strong and believable performances by the four-person cast. Linda Kelsey inhabits the character of Juliana as someone who varies between flustered and in control, uncertain and confident, belligerent and loving. James A. Williams is her supportive but frustrated husband. Joy Dolo smoothly transitions between several women in Juliana's life - willful teenage daughter, exasperated adult daughter, concerned therapist, and annoyed woman she encounters. Matt Wall rounds out the cast as Juliana's estranged son-in-law and several other characters. Juliana's interactions with these minor characters reflect her declining state of mind.

At under 90 minutes, The Other Place is cleverly and smartly written by playwright Sharr White, with language and interactions efficiently used to convey emotion and tell the story of this once strong and now lost woman. The ending is achingly beautiful, as Juliana comes to a sort of peace with the state of her life, reflected in lovely video projections (by Kristin Ellert, who also designed the set). It's moving, poignant, funny, devastating, and hopeful. Playing now through April 19 on Park Square's Boss Stage.

*Click here to read about Shooting Star, now playing on Park Square's Proscenium Stage.

This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.