The Other Place at Santa Paula Theater Center
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine
Are you ever really ready for a life-changing experience? The answer is no. The truth is, if it is happening to you, you probably will not recognize it. If it is happening to someone else, then you see it without truly understanding it. In either case, the challenges such an experience presents are enormous.
This is the premise of the current Santa Paula Theatre Center offering, The Other Place by Sharr White. It is a complex, emotionally wringing and surprising play performed without an intermission. Nominated for numerous stage awards, The Other Place kicks off the SPTC’s 2016 season with a flare of strength.
Juliana (Cynthia Killion) is a medical research scientist presenting a seminar on a break-through medication. During the presentation she has a perception episode. Later the cause is confirmed as a symptom of dementia. Complications involving imagined actions by her husband, Ian (Michael Perlmutter), and perceived family situations lead Juliana further down the path of confusion, as her physician husband is left to lament, “I’m not ready for this.”
The story is told primarily by Juliana as she relates her perceptions of various events, real and imagined, that playwright White deftly weaves through time and space, both externally and internally, now and at the other place where the family once resided.
Although Juliana’s debilitation is caused by an unspecified dementia, the story accurately deals with conditions, behaviors and emotional detritus experienced by the families and victims of any of a number of mild to severe mental health issues.
Directed with sensitivity by Taylor Kasch, The Other Place allows the audience to experience Juliana’s journey in such a way that elicits deep emotional response, as well as the occasional laugh or tear.
Killion and Perlmutter are a dynamic match. Both are highly skilled in their craft and fully immerse themselves in their roles. Each brings power, empathy, insight and compassion to their roles.
Taking on multiple personas in pivotal supporting roles throughout the drama are Amanda Canty as The Woman, and Scott Blanchard as The Man. Canty provides a great deal of depth to her multiple roles, as does Blanchard, although he is seen less frequently.
As the years have gone by, the Santa Paula Theatre Center has been taking more and more risks in the material they present. Nearly every choice has been a solid winner both for both the actors and audiences. With The Other Place as its opener, the upcoming season is solidly on track to continue that excellence.
The Other Place runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through March 13. Tickets are $20 general, and $18 seniors/students. Due to both strong language and the sensitive subject matter, the show is not suitable for children. 525-4645 or www.santapaulatheatercenter.org. Reservations recommended.