Laurie Metcalf Photo: Fred R. Conrad

Laurie Metcalf
Photo: Fred R. Conrad

by: Sandi Durell

From MTC Theatre’s last season at the Lucille Lortel, “The Other Place” has transferred to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, West 47th Street on Broadway. The incomparable Laurie Metcalf continues as Juliana Smithton, a scientist-doctor-wife-mother, who has been working on a complex drug to stem the effects of dementia.

She is sitting silently on stage as the audience arrives and when she speaks she is both narrator and protagonist in a series of flashbacks and forwards, sinking, spiraling into the world in which she has been lecturing at a conference in the Virgin Islands about the drug that will help dementia patients. She is that patient yet unbeknownst to herself, thinking that she has brain cancer. All the while, in a sea of men, she sees a young girl in a yellow bikini at whom she rages. Yes, she rages at everyone and everything as the story unfolds.

Her husband oncologist Ian (Daniel Stern) is divorcing her, but still loves her, and plays a caring, supportive man in spite of the current marital situation.

Her mind takes her to other places, extreme traumas – a rebellious daughter (Zoe Perry) who, at age 14 disappears and, they think, has eloped with her lab assistant Robert (John Schiappa) whom she had fired – each actor taking on several roles. There are flashbacks to a daughter, her husband and crying children (we don’t see) as Juliana speaks with her on the phone, reaching out for a reality that doesn’t exist. Zoe Perry makes her Broadway debut here and is also Ms. Metcalf’s daughter in real life.

Juliana undergoes tests administered by a young doctor colleague of her husband (the doctor played by Ms. Perry), as Juliana spews accusations of an affair, belittling whenever she can, her vicious demeanor always evident.

As her mental condition deteriorates, her emotions are raw and spiraling out of control. She must go back to their summer place, the other place in Cape Cod where her mind thinks she can find her daughter and salvage a relationship that never existed. What she finds is a young woman (Zoe Perry) who now owns the property and, in her mind, believes it is her daughter. The heart-breaking scene of grief, grasping, attempting to relive and remember, an all too real rendering of the horrors of dementia. What is real, what is not? Truth or fiction!

This is a difficult play but radiant in its writing by Sharr White, brilliantly directed by Joe Mantello and catapults Laurie Metcalf as a dazzling and consummate actor surely to be nominated for many awards.

The interlocking window frames set in a semi-circle constitute the sparse scenic design by Eugene Lee, with lighting by Justin Townsend and projections by William Cusick, along with original music and sound by Fitz Patton.