The Other Place, until July 5, at PAL Theatre
The harrowing suspense of “The Other Place” is palpable and almost visible. As the lead character, a neuroscientist named Juliana, slips into dementia, we are brought along with her on this terrifying ride.
This subject has been dealt with in film, such as in “Away From Her”, with Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. But, my memory of that film is of a gentle slope into loss. In contrast, this play captures the sheer fear that arises as one’s mind slips away from her. The effects that this loss of intellect, judgment, and restraint has on others is unsparing.
Lead actor Chilton Crane, who plays Juliana, so well embodies the role that it can be difficult to hang on. The play captures the ambiguity that can arise as one wonders–isn’t it normal to forget now and then, isn’t it reasonable that would upset her? Daryl Shuttleworth captures the exasperated and desperate husband very well. The Woman, who may or may not be Juliana’s daughter and may or may not be real, is played by Avery Crane. Nick Hunnings plays a male nurse-caregiver (how often do we think of a man in this role?) who professionally and mindfully cares for his patient.
Unfortunately, probably just about everyone has at least a second-degree experience with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia with their loved ones. Although the play does not focus on the horrific physical effects that occur with advanced-stage brain diseases, what we see is clear enough.
The set is relatively minimal, but with a few clever staging tricks moves easily between the Caribbean, Cape Cod, and the family home (in an unspecified location). As I have mentioned before, i was curious to see if everyone involved could achieve a convincing psychological thriller with such an intimate environment while relying almost exclusively on the acting to do so, and they have succeeded very well.