Laurie Metcalf is already seated center stage as patrons enter the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre for Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of The Other Place, tempting less-sophisticated playgoers to yell out, “We loved you in Roseanne!”
But despite her Emmy-winning sitcom success, Metcalf’s extensive stage career has consisted primarily of critically acclaimed performances in more somber fare, such as her Mary Tyrone in last year’s London production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. As in that O’Neill classic, Sharr White’s psychological drama also has her playing a woman whose mind transports her into unreliable perceptions of reality. The twist being that she’s this play’s storyteller.
As accomplished neurologist Juliana Smithton, Metcalf is a striking figure of confident, intelligent sexuality; smartly dressed and crackling with sarcasm. She puts those qualities to good use in marketing a new pill intended to treat dementia and once the play gets started, she’s recalling a presentation she gave at a convention in St. Thomas, where she was distracted by a woman in the audience dressed in a yellow bikini. Soon, the audience may question if the scantily clad guest was really there because, coincidentally, it seems Juliana may be suffering from dementia herself and, in a roller coaster of scene work deftly guided by director Joe Mantello, the play takes us from narrated remembrances to the present to flashbacks, all depictions questionable in their truthfulness.
In her messy home life, Juliana suspects her oncologist husband Ian (Daniel Stern) is cheating on her, and that she’s been getting calls from her long lost daughter (Zoe Perry) who might have married her former assistant (John Schiappa). Eugene Lee and Edward Pierce’s clever set provides a background of jumbled window frames, none of which offer a clear view of what’s beyond.
With weightier roles for the supporting players, The Other Place might provide a deeper experience in its 70-minute length, but Juliana is the only fully-realized character. Fortunately, the superb Metcalf, with her detailed performance exposing Juliana’s humiliation and fear of losing control of her mind, is attention-grabbing at every moment, but without her presence The Other Side seems little more than a competent, if somewhat familiar, episode.
Photo of Laurie Metcalf by Joan Marcus.
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"I am confused by life but I feel safe within the confines of the theatre."
-- Helen Hayes
The grosses are out for the week ending 1/20/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: THE HEIRESS (13.7%), EVITA (10.5%), MARY POPPINS (9.0%), GOLDEN BOY (9.0%), CHICAGO (8.0%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (7.0%), ANNIE (7.0%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (6.6%), MAMMA MIA! (3.0%), WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf? (2.4%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (2.2%), ROCK OF AGES (1.6%), WICKED (1.2%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (1.1%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT(1.0%),
Down for the week was: PICNIC (-17.1%), The Other Place (-12.1%), NEWSIES (-8.4%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-5.8%), JERSEY BOYS (-5.2%), ONCE (-3.7%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (-1.7%), THE LION KING (-0.3%), THE BOOK OF MORMON (-0.1%),
So I arrive at the St. James tonight and they're passing out notices saying the performance is cancelled because Barry Manilow has bronchitis. And I'm thinking, somebody should just call Mandy Patinkin. He'd be over in ten minutes and do the whole show in Yiddish.