The Other Place | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The-Other-Place 75The Other Place is first and foremost a drama, but it is also an excellent thriller.

The-Other-Place 500

I’m still surprised I didn’t cry at some point during this performance. To say The Other Place pulls at your heart strings would be an understatement, but I think for me the emotion that was heightened most by this play was intrigue. The Other Place is first and foremost a drama, but it is also an excellent thriller.

The show’s synopsis provides just enough information to ignite initial curiosity. The breakdown: Juliana Smithton (Kate Levy) had created an extremely promising new medicine to treat neurological disorders; however, quite ironically, she begins to exhibit some unusual seemingly-neurological ailments herself.

Throughout the show, Juliana describes an “episode” she experienced while promoting her new drug to a group of doctors. The play is split into several scenes from different points in time that interrupt one another. Each scene offers unspoken suggestions as to what may be afflicting Juliana, as well as allude to a traumatic event in her past. These pieces come together like a puzzle in the minds of audience members; I continually yearned for a new piece of information to fiddle with.

Juliana thinks its brain cancer, but she also thinks her husband Ian (R. Ward Duffy) is cheating on her and has filed for divorce. Additionally, she insists that her daughter has been contacting her, and Juliana speaks often of the “other place,” both statements that Ian appears to be deeply troubled by. Oh, and she forgets things. A lot of things. She repeats herself and says “thingy” in place of misplaced words. But she’s extremely witty and sarcastic despite it all and much of the show’s humor comes through her tone. (Although, you will wonder, has she always been this funny, or is the “you know,” the “thingy,” whatever has gotten hold of her, made her this way)?

It’s hard to say much more about the plot of the show without giving away too many pieces of the story, which would be spoiled entirely if the audience member were not to construct it him or herself.

Do know that there are two other individuals who appear in this show; they are labeled as The Man (Clark Scott Carmichael) and The Woman (Amelia McClain) in the playbill, as each plays several different characters. They are essential to the story — the corner pieces of the puzzle, if you will — representing people of Juliana’s past, present and future. All four are astounding actors, though I was incredibly impressed with Duffy’s and Levy’s performances. They are the stars of The Other Place.

The Other Place is one of The Rep’s three studio series shows, meaning it takes place in the “black box” theatre below the main stage. It’s an intimate setting for an intimate play, and despite having a small set to work with, the staging is hardly stagnant. Many props to set designer Luke Hegel-Cantarella.

I’ve always been fascinated by mental illness, as frighteningly as it can be displayed. The Other Place is frightening and not just because you have to watch a woman’s mental capacity deteriorate before your eyes. It’s frightening because of the memories that haunt her, the memories that are distorted in her mind. Though it’s in no way clear that the events of her past caused her disease, they fuel it. It’s frightening because her disease is real. You or I could get it. We’ve known people with it. It’s a disease that takes you to another place, a place as elusive as it sounds. I would not hesitate to see this one again. | Megan Washausen

The Other Place runs through Feb. 9. For tickets or information, call (314) 968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.

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