Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Other Place is a Place to Be

I experienced the most extreme 75 minutes when seeing the Broadway production of "The Other Place". Talk about compact writing that utilizes every moment to push the story along. Playwright Sharr White has an extensive bio of 'other places' he has worked on his art, but this is his Broadway debut and how lucky for him to have the director and cast that he has to tell his unique story.

I found the piece to be extremely powerful and beautiful. A truly thought-provoking contemporary drama full of mystery and...pain. I went into it not knowing much: a woman who thinks she's suffering from brain cancer...or is she? But the journey we go on that plays with time in such a unique way: I for one loved it.

It's always difficult when you read reviews of shows because so many times it seems reviewers are telling the show they'd prefer to see instead of what they saw. Simply look at the way the NY Times reviewed the show first off-Broadway and then the transfer to on Broadway: same show ending and yet they didn't tear it apart on Broadway as they had off. (BTW - I love the last scene that he complains about - maybe I go for the touching, weepy Lifetime movie.)

I think Joe Mantello is such a wonderful director. I first saw him as an actor on Broadway, but he quickly became one of the leading directors with so many credits under his belt (working with Bette Midler next on her return to Broadway). He keeps this show moving along so quickly and yet gives amazing jolts to the audiences that causes us to feel a punch from how he has directed his cast.

What a cast it is. Laurie Metcalf deserves all the praise she has received for this show. She never leaves the stage (even starts out on stage prior to the rest of the cast) and gives a tour-de-force performance. To watch a woman unravel in the way she portrays it is brilliance at work. And to work with her real life daughter Zoe Perry as a scene partner (playing multiple roles) - I really loved their scenes together. Ms. Perry is a great talent in her on right. I saw Bill Pullman's first performance and I can't imagine coming into this well-oiled machine when he did. He gave a fine performance and I know he'll only get better (and a little louder for the stage). John Schiappa rounds out the cast and I only wish he had a little more to do since this seems like a four person ensemble piece, but really has the other three shine much more.

I must also give kudos to the design teams because everything worked so wonderful together in this piece. Eugene Lee and Edwards Pierce for their abstract scenic design, Justin Townsend's stark and evocative lighting, Fitz Patton for the haunting original music and sound design, and William Cusick for video and projection design which truly aided to the power of this show.

The intermission-less show has become more and more popular on Broadway. It allows people to see a show without taking up an entire evening, but sometimes it leaves you wanting more. Strangely enough, this felt complete to me. Even at 75 minutes. I completely understood this woman, her life, her fears - it was all there unfolding in front of our eyes with flashbacks and monologues. And from the amount of people that simply could not get out of their seats at show's end; had to sit and take it all in - I was not alone. 

Thank you, Manhattan Theatre Club for offering unique pieces such as "The Other Place" for audiences. It runs one more month! My recommendation is to get there.

And lastly, Mr. Mantello - please call me. Have I got a script for you to tackle! 


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