Home / A&E / Theater / Divorce and Dementia in Next Act’s Cleverly Crafted ‘The Other Place’

Divorce and Dementia in Next Act’s Cleverly Crafted ‘The Other Place’

Feb. 7, 2017
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Photo Credit: Ross Zenter

Playwright Sharr White’s objective in creating The Other Place is to keep the audience on its toes. Things that seem rock solid in the first scene seem to fade away, or at least become questionable, in the second. This tantalizing cat-and-mouse game is one reason why The Other Place is a smart, cleverly crafted and wonderfully acted production at Next Act Theatre. 

The play focuses on star research scientist Juliana Smithton, played brilliantly by Deborah Staples under David Cecsarini’s direction. As the play opens, she has just landed in the U.S. Virgin Islands to address a conference of doctors. The presentation is mainly a sales pitch for a new drug that may slow down or stop the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The drug is based on Juliana’a own research and represents the culmination of her lifelong work.

Juliana, 52, appears at first as a strong, confident and capable woman, despite the fact she is going through a divorce and trying to re-establish contact with an estranged daughter who left home years ago, when she was 15. Juliana has a dark side, especially when it comes to discussing her soon-to-be ex-husband’s sexual dalliances (Todd Denning gives one of his best performances on Milwaukee stages as Ian, an oncologist and Juliana’s long-time husband). As the play goes on, Ian becomes more and more of a sympathetic character to the increasingly irrational and emotionally unbalanced Juliana.

The play’s many mysteries unfold throughout the one-act, so the audience never knows when another piece to the puzzle is about to fit into place. This keeps the audience riveted to every movement, every bit of dialogue. 

Also supporting Juliana’s character is actor Cristina Panfilio, another familiar face in Milwaukee theater. She plays several roles, imbuing each with complete conviction and credibility. Another Milwaukee actor, Di’Monte Henning, has a couple of minor—though pivotal—roles in bringing the play to its final conclusion. 

Theatergoers have a wealth of fine choices to discover in February. Although they all have many good things to offer, it would be a shame to let The Other Place slip by without making time to see it.

Through Feb. 26 at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. For tickets, visit nextact.org or call 414-278-0765. 

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