This is the story of a successful neurologist whose life seems to be unraveling. Her husband has filed for divorce, her daughter eloped with an older man and her physical and mental health is in question.
Fact mixes with fiction and present with past to knit a tapestry of intense love and abject suffering.
At times the play, which was nominated for a Tony, Obie and two Outer Circle Critic awards, including Outstanding New Play, is difficult to watch because of its heroic attempt at wrangling so much grief and pain into 80 minutes.
White’s words are catchy, edgy and sometimes disturbing. He captures the deep emotional undertones like a cowboy a wild maverick or a fisherman an elusive shark.
Danielle Stephens and Taylor Gilbert star in the Los Angeles premiere of "THE OTHER PLACE"
The language is of such high quality that it often makes the characters instead of the characters making the language. The words are a cage that the characters create for themselves without having the key.
The subjects, syllables and syntax make the play what it is: a study in human reckoning. In so doing, the language makes us, the audience, that much truer to ourselves and those around us.
Andre Barron’s direction is timeless and authentic. It spans toil, tedium, tradition and temerity to underscore place and possibility like a mother holding a baby.
Barron, it seems, allows the actors the liberty to be themselves, and does not let the action get in the way of the words or vice versa. He allows each performer the opportunity to interpret the moment as he or she sees fit. This freedom is apparent in the free flow form of the play, the very movement and momentum that mark its margins.
Crawling up and down these thick borders is a stellar cast which includes both artistic directors.
Stand outs include:
Sam Anderson (Ian) who gives a convincing and realistic turn as the husband. At once understated and sensitive, this portrayal will turn heads.
Taylor Gilbert (Juliana) who, especially in the second half of the play, displays a depth and charm that make for a fascinating and multi-faceted performance. This character is the lynchpin upon which the play rests, and Gilbert is true to the task. The last 20 minutes, especially, are unforgettable.
But it is Danielle Stephens (The Woman) who steals the show. In a portrayal for the ages, she is at once courageous, compelling, convincing and comely. Stephens shows-off a genuine stage presence, depth and emotional range few actresses can equal.
Stephens pounces on, prowls and possesses the role like a hungry tiger a gazelle. The transformation from nurse to daughter to stranger in a house is not only seamless, but full of passion, compassion and mature love.
This is an actress at the height of her craft, strength and sensitivity in tact. This critic would very much like to see this gifted thespian on the stages of North Hollywood or Los Angeles again soon.
Also helping to get the message of the play across are Kaitlyn Pietras’ scenic and projection design, Pablo Santiago’s lighting design, David B. Marling’s sound design and Michele Young’s costume design.
In the end, “The Other Place,” the second show of the 2014-15 season, works because of a committed writer, director, cast and crew that understand the depth of grief and suffering inherent in the human condition, and are unafraid to bring it to the stage on Magnolia Boulevard.
This is a work of art with great feeling and substance that ultimately rejoices in rebirth and makes you happy to be alive. It made this critic realize the beautiful gift that life truly is.
It seems that many theatre goers can identify with the character of Juliana towards the end of the play, when she says, “Not being myself is who I am.”
Not only does she summarize her predicament, but that of the human race as well.
The Road Theatre Company, which also has a theatre on Lankershim Boulevard in the heart of the No Ho Arts District, should be given a world of credit for taking a chance on a play as unique and personal as this.
The company seems to be making the right choices at the right time when it comes to choosing plays for both its theatres.
The Road has rarely seen better days, and the audience better plays.
Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm
Information/Admission: (818) 761-8838
The Road on Magnolia
Located in The No Ho Senior Arts Colony,
10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91602