Orange County Theatre Reviews

(photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)

Written by Patrick Chavis 

The human mind is a fascinating place. For all the technical advances we have made as human beings, just how exactly the mind works is still a mystery. This is why we have fields like psychology, philosophy, and other branches of study which are trying to make sense of humanity and why we do the things we do.  These mysteries and truths have been chronicled in stories, plays, and movies for decades.  The Other Place now playing at the Chance Theatre is one more of these psychological stories — delving into the complexity of the human mind and its effect on our lives in a way that is somehow simultaneously comical and tragic. 

The story of The Other Place centers around neurologist Juliana played by Jacqueline Wright. In this play, the audience watches a variety of painful moments in Juliana’s life mixed in with scenes set at a neurological conference. The mystery of Juliana is revealed, but only to a certain extent–as we soon realize the actual truth of Juliana’s story is a little more complicated than what we are led to believe. 

Ron Hastings as Ian and Jacqueline Wright as Juliana in the regional premiere of Sharr White’s The Other Place

I believe the confusing set-up of the play’s beginning to be intentional.   It’s obvious the writer is trying to lead you down a rabbit hole you don’t really understand. But at the same time when you do go down this rabbit hole,  you’ll probably find that you don’t really care.  You don’t know this lady, and she hasn’t really shown you anything remarkable about herself that makes the audience want to continue this journey with her.   The “mystery” is not a mystery for too long as it’s made blatantly obvious pretty early on what’s taking place.  What you’re left with is a joke that ties into something greater, but the joke isn’t really that funny.  Although there is a moment tying the narrative together, there’s nothing really new learned from this revelation at the end of the play.   

The scene that held my attention the most is near the end of the play.  There’s an actual comedic situation we see unfold between a random person (Krystyna Ahlers)  and Juliana that’s quite compelling.  This scene was one of the most captivating parts of the play. In my opinion, the scene could have been the play, but it’s relegated to the near ending.  Without giving away any spoilers, the comedic situation mixed with the convincing emotional acting was funnier and more heartfelt than the forced comedic dialogue we are given for much of the play. Wright is excellent in this moment of the play and it actually made me curious about Juliana’s fate.    

The dramatic direction from Matthew McCray is quite solid, and the emotional beats are hit pretty well.  

Chance Theatre takes on a challenging play with the help of two strong leads in Jacqueline Wright and Ron Hastings. That being said, the show misses the mark at really creating an intriguing psychological mystery due to missed comedic and dramatic opportunities.      

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