Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The Other Place
Also see Dean's review of Footloose
Such is "the other place" in Sharr White's play by the same name, now in a challenging and thought-provoking production at the Adobe Theater in Albuquerque.
The Other Place is the story of Juliana Smithton (Ronda Lewis) and her transformations. First, tragedy and guilt transformed her into what she is as the play opens: hard, unfeeling, mean-spirited, a scientist who becomes a shill for a drug, a successful shaman. Within 15 minutes of the play's opening, she has managed to ridicule everyone she has come into contact with, including her husband, daughter, son-in-law, doctor, and a member of the imaginary audience (an unseen "woman in a yellow bikini") to whom she is giving a sophisticated medical sales pitch. This transformation has actually occurred a decade before the play begins, though we are only fully aware of it toward the end.
But the other transformation takes place before our eyes. The strong woman becomes pathetic. The well woman becomes sick. The sane woman loses touch with reality. I don't want to be more explicit than this for fear of ruining the story for anyone who may see it. I'll just say that this transformation is utterly stunning. It is a credit to Lewis and director Matt Heath that the transformation is totally convincing. We actually see the woman implode before our eyes.
The most interesting, and most challenging, aspect of the play is a kind of sleight of hand: nothing we think we know is true, nothing we see is actually happening, it's all illusion. In fact, the audience would be totally lost if it were not for the grounding provided by several supporting characters, a kind of truth corrective, although doled out in small enough doses to keep us guessing and in suspense.
Most important of the supporting characters is the husband. Ian Smithton (Dehron Foster) is a loving, supportive, stabilizing, and eminently sane influence in Juliana's life. For this reason, I grimaced when from time time he screamed in anger at his wife. I wished he had found quieter, more intense ways to express his frustration at the woman who is somewhat like a president we all know, seemed willfully oblivious to obvious truth. Nevertheless, the range of emotions Foster is able to express convincingly, from bitter tears to deep affection, is impressive.
The remaining two actors, Maria Held and Eric Werner, play multiple roles, indicating their change of character with a new costume and an easygoing adaptation to their shifting confrontations with the always difficult Juliana.
The Other Place, through November 11, 2018, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 4th St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, visit www.adobetheater.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 505-898-9222.