Chicago Theatre Review
‘The Other Place’ a Cryptic, Intriguing Trip
The Other Place – Profiles Theatre
“The Other Place,” the new play at the consistently adventurous, consistently excellent Profiles Theatre, continues the company’s long tradition of offering challenging, stimulating works of theater, although the play ultimately does not reach the heights of “The Cryptogram,” its previous play which harkened on similar territory.
The set-up is an intriguing one – Julianna (played by the magnetic Lia D. Mortensen) is giving a lecture at a science conference on a new protein that her pharmaceutical company has developed, one that targets special areas in the brain to stymy the effects of dementia…except something is not quite right. Intercutting the central thread of the lecture, the action shifts to other moments in Julianna’s life, all of which make it clear that the pieces are not adding up into a coherent whole. Is she really divorcing her husband (played with wonderful sensitivity by Steve Silver), for instance? Is she really receiving late-night phone calls from her long-missing daughter? And why is she meeting – clearly against her will – with a doctor?
The first half of “The Other Place” is endlessly fascinating as the plot seamlessly transitions from setting to setting, and guiding us along the whole way is Mortensen, who precariously pivots between anger, confusion, hostility, and tepidness via her narration, which is directly spoken to the audience. For that first half, “The Other Place” is every bit the cryptic mystery that Profiles’ “The Cryptogram” was in 2014…until it makes the sad error in taking its foot off the gas.
At the halfway point, “The Other Place” finally reveals its secrets, and it takes an extended foray into the past that elaborates upon one of Julianna’s present-day confusions. It’s sensical why playwright Sharr White would choose to take that direction, but I fear it sucks the life-force out of the play, robbing it of its central narrative device and, in Profiles’ case, its greatest asset in the powerful acting of Mortensen. Don’t get me wrong, the second half of the play is still well-performed and executed (we expect little else from Profiles), but after such a strong opening half, the closing moments can’t help but disappoint.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through April 5 by Profiles Theatre, 4147 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets are available by calling 773-549-1815 or by visiting www.profilestheatre.org
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.