Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

The Other Place

Also see Fred's review of The Shadow of the Hummingbird

Kate Levy and Amelia McClain
The Other Place, at Hartford's TheaterWorks through April 19th, snares attention early as Dr. Juliana Smithton (Kate Levy), facing the audience, speaks of a drug she now promotes which might retard and repress a form of human dementia or brain cancer. We watch, for the next 80 plus minutes, her downward spiral as her grip on reality slips away. Sharr White's play is graceful, sensitive and also harsh. Its conclusion is strikingly sorrowful.

Juliana addresses a group of doctors at a conference. The physical background created by designer Luke Hegel-Cantarella appears to be a multitude of house shingles placed upon a wall. Juliana, at the beginning aggressive, angry and even bitter, looks out and, amid the physicians, spots a young woman wearing a yellow string bikini. At different times, she makes reference to this individual.

Accusing her husband Ian (R. Ward Duffy), an oncologist, of leaving her—complete with its implications—Juliana calls her daughter (Amelia McClain) and son-in-law (Clark Carmichael). Ian grapples with his wife's affliction, her diminished mental acuity, her descent. Amelia McClain also plays the psychologist whom Juliana visits. McClain, taking on a third character, is finally a young woman who, toward the end of the play, meets a delusionary Juliana at "the other place." McClain moves swiftly and effectively from one persona to the next. The scene shifts and Hegel-Cantarella brings us to an inviting house on Cape Cod, where Juliana once spent weekends.

The talented Levy (dressed in gray business attire by costumer Dorothy Marshall Englis) allows access to a smart, strong woman who is, to be blunt, losing her mind. Juliana drives forward, furious that her husband will divorce, hoping that her daughter will reunite with her. She begins to understand that she is relinquishing her grasp of certain words. Ian, meanwhile, is challenged to remain caring, to maintain his own stamina.

It is disconcerting, to say the very least, to watch a bright, intellectually strong woman in midlife flailing and failing. Painful to observe, White's unusual and atypical play is nothing short of irresistible. Rob Ruggiero's direction permits the actors freedom within the context of a tightly-written script.

While we are not aware, during initial moments, that Levy's Juliana is suffering, it ultimately becomes apparent she is fighting the type of mental illness that her new drug is designed to combat. Call this a mixture of irony and tragedy.

The final scene which features Juliana and a young woman meeting at the house on the Cape is especially poignant and tender. The young woman realizes something about Juliana and elects to modify her own responses in a selfless attempt to soothe Juliana. Anything more said here would be too revelatory.

The play hooks the audience from its opening words, since they are spoken to us. The Other Place feels like it is much longer than an hour and a half; but it is not. White includes not only engaging characters but a wide array of emotion (fright, affection, sadness ...) as his piercing play unfolds.

The Other Place continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through April 19th. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit

Photo: Lanny Nagler

- Fred Sokol