Barrington Stage Company kicks off its 20th season with a deft and provocative family drama imbued with psychological mystery. Sharr White’s highly literate and timely family play, which was first produced four years ago, keeps its audience on its toes, undermining our assumptions almost as soon as we make them.
I always wonder how a contemporary play finds a theater. Actor and Barrington Stage Associate Artist Christopher Innvar tells us in his director’s note: he was cast in a Manhattan Theater Club production of White’s The Snow Geese in New York and was so taken by the playwright’s sensibility that he chose to direct another of his plays in Pittsfield.
It’s easy to see why. The Other Place revolves around a deep crisis in the lives of a couple of stellar professionals: Ian, a middle-aged oncologist, and Juliana, his 52-year-old wife, a research scientist. The play begins with her monologue — pitching a drug Juliana’s lab has developed — at a mostly male medical conference in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Brilliant, hard-edged, a chic professional, she lectures on her research with practiced ease, showing a series of slides, describing the way her drug interacts with the molecular structures diagrammed, and interjecting personal asides to her two audiences: the assembled neurologists and us.
A stark, single set facilitates quick transitions: the action moves from a contemporary living room to a doctor’s office and then a beach house. We slowly realize that these scenes may be flashbacks, flash forwards or Juliana’s fantasies about her marriage, her possible illness, her estranged daughter and son-in-law, and The Other Place, the house where her family summered when she was young and which she has inherited.
Between Juliana’s imperious commands to the slide technician, “NEXT!” we learn bits and pieces of the crises that drive the play. Like the English professor protagonist of Margaret Edson’s powerful drama Wit, Juliana is a fiercely independent academic who can turn on a dime from gracious woman to sarcastic bitch. Like Edson’s Vivian Bearing, she’s a control freak who suddenly finds herself having an inexplicable episode of memory loss. She’s suddenly out of control, suspicious, angry, confused, dependent on the kindness of both family and strangers. It’s a role to die for, and Marg Helgenberger fully inhabits Juliana’s many wildly fluctuating emotional states.
To read the complete review, please visit artsfuse.org.
The Emmy Award winning actress, Marg Helgenberger could not have picked a better role for her return to the stage. She is a no-nonsense actor who is not prone to histrionics or showiness. Her matter-of-fact demeaner has served her well on television and in film, and it provides a solid base for this theatre project. Turns out that her character Juliana in Sharr White’s THE OTHER PLACE is also strong willed,, a successful scientist who is firmly in control of her life, her career and her emotions. But when her mind begins to misfire, the signs are subtle and, using her intellect, she concludes that she must have brain cancer. It runs in her family, she says.
Thus begins this personal puzzle play which given the intimacy between the audience and the actors on the St. Germain Stage, expands to envelop actors and audience into an intellectual embrace. You can see every blink, every wrinkle of the brow of the actors on stage and hear even their most secretive whispers and asides, and as the Barrington Stage opener unfolds, we find that the transformation taking place on stage does not reveal its secrets easily. We lean in closer, the better to study Marg Helgenberger’s creation of a great mind disintegrating. She has an up-close style of acting that illuminates the smallish space as her journey takes its many twists and turns.
To read this complete review, please visit www.broadwayworld.com.
Yesterday Barrington Stage Company posted a slide show of photos from “The Other Place” on their Facebook page. Click the photo below to be taken to the slideshow to view the full-sized images. There are 13 beautiful photos in all, all taken by Kevin Sprague Photography. Thanks so much, Barrington Stage Company!
For anyone who missed this yesterday, Marg posted this photo, which was taken after a discussion of ‘The Other Place’ with playwright Sharr White and Barrington Stage Company’s artistic director Julie Boyd.
— Marg Helgenberger (@MargHelgen) May 24, 2014
After their discussion, Mr. White stayed to attend Marg’s performance of his play and had this to say afterwards:
— Sharrwhite (@Sharrwhite) May 25, 2014
I have to admit that I felt like a proud mom when I read his words. I’m sure they must have made Marg feel good about the work she’s doing. I’m also a big fan of Sharr White’s plays so I’d love to see her do more of his plays in the future.