“The Other Place” now on stage at Dobama Theatre is described as “a superb play that is a thriller wrapped in a mystery disguised as a memoir.”
Be that as it may, it is, in fact, an extremely intense, disturbing, jarring and truthful acknowledgment of the debilitating power of dementia and the effect it has on its victim and family members.
Juliana (Tracee Patterson) is a brilliant medical researcher-turned-pharmaceutical representative who has developed a pill that shows great promise in stopping the advance of dementia and possibly reversing its effects. There is only one problem.
Juliana is convinced that she is suffering from brain tumors (members of her family had died from them at close to her current age). She is convinced that her husband is having an affair. She is convinced that her daughter (who ran way ten years ago with Juliana’s older research assistant) has reconnected with her. She is convinced that they still own a weekend home on the Cape. She is convinced that while lecturing prominent doctors at an exclusive medical convention on St. Thomas, there is a woman sitting in the audience wearing nothing more than a yellow string bikini.
During her medical presentation, Juliana suffers “an episode” that shakes her to the core. Returning home, her husband (a highly sought-after neurologist) tries to convince her to be tested. The results clearly point to an absence of tumors. The question now presents itself on how to handle a high-strung, uber-business woman professional who has developed the medication she now needs.
Through the use of current situations, flashbacks and future enactments, a story is told of her gradual descent into mental chaos.
As for the show, the cast is superb. Tracee Patterson as Juliana is, of course, the center figure of this taut drama who keeps the audience off-balance through the entire 90 minutes (no intermission). You watch her slow motion drop from reality to fantasy. Doug Sutherland as Ian is perfect as the beleaguered husband who is trying desperately to keep his own sanity and anger in check while attempting to diagnose his wife’s ailment.
Mary Werntz is The Woman taking on various parts of daughter, current owner of the Cape house as well as a neurological doctor and keeps a fine distinction between each character. Prophet Seay is also equal to the task in portraying various roles.
The set design by Jill Davis is haunting, to say the least, with a recurring pattern of ocean waves as well as a kitchen that pops up out of nowhere. Angie Hayes adds to the creepy factor with subtle background noises that you really have to listen for to notice. Jeremy Paul’s projections help in setting the overall somber mood of the show. Lastly, Nathan Motta as director has pieced together this show with careful attention to detail in regards to the elements of surprise, suspense, thrills and plot twists giving nothing away until the very end.
While an excellent production, this show is not for everyone. In concern for the subject matter, loud yelling, profanity and intensity, those of a more gentle nature may wish to pass on this production.
However, for you who love riding hyper-intense roller coasters, this production is right up your alley. Strap in and hang on because you are in for the wildest ninety-minute ride of your life.
“The Other Place” will be on stage at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights through April 2. For more information and tickets go to dobama.org or call (216) 932-3396.
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