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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Other Place

Anyway, I, I. . ., just wanted to let you know that I've always been able to tell. That this house has been. . . this sounds, weird, but. Loved
— The Woman
Other Place

Katya Campbell (Photo by Kevin Sprague)
Barrington Stage Company's The Other Place by Sharr White opens on a spare, softly lit set dominated by an intricately woven screen and an Asian-like serenity on the St. Germain Stage. Onto this, Emmy Award winner Marg Helgenberger as Juliana explodes her considerable acting skills in a riveting 90 minutes of uninterrupted, highly-charged exploration into the very essence of self.

The Other Place is a study of how our own perceptions are mirrored or refuted by the outside world in a dance with an almost second-by-second affirmation of what it means to be. Juliana narrates her intensely moving and sometimes coincidental personal history within a framework of a scientific medical conference in the Virgin Islands. She makes it clear in a few words that she is quite adept at delivering this sales pitch cum lecture where she confidently espouses the efficacy of a dementia drug which she has developed and is now promoting.

Hellenberger's Juliana is the epitome of the calculation and manipulation required to succeed in male-dominated territory, and she is prepared right down to the very height of her high heels. She knows her customers. She has lulled us into a receptive mode and we are seduced by her charm and wit.

Quickly this fa├žade is shattered, and we careen along with her through a harrowing family and personal drama of loss and redemption symbolized by "the other place, a long-cherished Cape Cod weekend cottage, part of Juliana's family memories and misery. The duality of this alleged refuge is not lost amidst the spiraling events which threaten the very core of her sanity.

The mystery of Juliana's past and present is further enhanced by Brent Langdon's Ian, her soon-to-be-ex-or-not husband. Langdon, as the spouse who is caught in the web of his wife's narrative, is at times loving, confused or despairing. We are made to understand the helplessness of the intimate who is also the outsider. Langdon's emotional depth serves as the effective foil to Helgenberger's emotional intensity.

Katya Campbell's three distinct roles help round out Juliana's world as the perplexed doctor, the distant daughter and frightened stranger whose own situation adds a note of pathos and closure to Juliana's personal cataclysm. Perhaps our sense of self is only truly revealed and affirmed through another. Adam Donshik completes the cast and is strong in two small, but necessary roles.

Ultimately the success of the production rests on director Christopher Innvar whose steady hand guides his actors through a nuanced interpretation of a very human, very complex story. At times it seemed as if the audience had stopped breathing as they were gripped by the power of the scenes in this family's tragedy.

In this centrifugal collision of fact and fiction, the lighting by Scott Pinkney sways our emotional response as we try to fathom the mystery that is Juliana."The music by Anthony Mattana subtly combines with the lighting and set to contrive an effective atmosphere in which to study the ephemeral quality of human thought and memory.

Editor's Note: This engrossing drama premiered at MCC's Off-Off Broadway home in Greenwhich Village starring Laurie Metcalf. ( Review). From there it moved to Broadway ( Review) and, as this Barrington Stage production proves, good direction and acting can extend its life.

The Other Place by Sharr White
Directed by Christopher Innvar
Cast in order of appearance: Marg Helgenberger (Juliana,) Katya Campbell (The woman,) Brent Langdon (Ian,) Adam Donshik (The Man)
Scenic and projection design: Brian Prather
Costume design: Kristina Sneshkoff
Lighting design: Scott Pinkney
Original music and sound design: Anthony Mattana
Production stage manager: Michael Andrew Rogers
Running Time: 90 minutes; no intermission
Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage: 413-236-8888
From: 5/21/14; Opening: 5/25/14; closing 6/14/14
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at the May 25 performance
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