Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

The Other Place
OnStage Playhouse
Review by David Dixon

Also see David's review of Water by the Spoonful

Tina Machele Brown
Photo by Daren Scott
Sometimes, it is best to go into a theatre not knowing much about the show's plot. While many critics have discussed productions of The Other Place in depth, that arguably takes away from the journey the audience goes on with the main character, Juliana Smithton (Tina Machele Brown). I will do my best to not give away the secrets of OnStage Playhouse's strong interpretation of Sharr White's mystery.

Juliana is a confident scientist advertising a drug, Identamyl, for a pharmaceutical company. As she gives a lengthy lecture, theatregoers learn about Juliana's personal life. She is convinced that her oncologist husband Ian (Nick Young) is cheating on her, and she also wants to meet in person with her estranged daughter (Emily Jerez, who shows range as several different characters). Juliana only talks to her daughter on the phone. Her not-so-ideal circumstances decline even further when she starts to believe she is suffering from brain cancer.

White's prose initially keeps viewers at a distance, and that is by design. His mystery is a bit of a puzzle, one that is eventually solved as Juliana continues to interact with others. After the twists are revealed, White's dialogue becomes bittersweet, and Juliana and Ian turn into a compassionate couple.

Sandra Ruiz's direction matches White's script. She first creates a sense of detachment as we see Juliana give her speech, and her storytelling turns visceral when Juliana and Ian get into serious arguments.

The only scene that feels abruptly staged at the Chula Vista venue is a flashback involving Juliana, Ian, and their daughter. Although the sequence from White does reveal important information, it might have been more gripping if the segment were saved for a few minutes later into the evening. Even that recollection includes great acting by the stars.

Brown and Young depict a marriage that is full of conflict, but also love and understanding. It's the acting from the leads that allows the short (roughly 70 minutes) psychological thriller to be devastating to watch.

Outside of Duane McGregor's abstract set, other technical elements are fairly subdued. However, Kevin "Blax" Burroughs' lighting, Estefania Ricalde's audio, and Jaden Guerrero's (also an ensemble member) sound design occasionally creates a disorienting tone when Juliana is alone with her thoughts. Salomon Maya's projections also contribute to the scientist's extensive presentation throughout the runtime.

White's tale rewards patience and is both disturbing and moving as events unfold on the stage. You will likely have a deep conversation about the experience after the curtain call.

The Other Place runs through April 17, 2022, at OnStage Playhouse, 291 3rd Ave, Chula Vista CA. Tickets start at $22.00. For tickets and information, please visit or call 619-422-7787.