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THE OTHER PLACE presented by the Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Feb. 15. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
Pardon my french, but Juliana Smithton is a bitch. Considering how she treats the people in her life, its no wonder that her husband is divorcing her and her estranged daughter dreads the thought of a simple phone conversation. But there is more to Juliana’s story than meets the eye.
Lead Regina Pugh does excellent work in the demanding role of Juliana. The gamut of emotions and the personal motivations of her behavior all make sense, even when that understanding only becomes apparent to the audience later in the script. Also solid is Michael G. Bath as Juliana’s husband Ian. Until the audience is privy to what is really happening, Ian’s responses to Juliana’s behavior comes off a bit psychotic. The complex truth of his struggle to be strong and supportive for his wife, while dealing with this upheaval of their lives together is very well-acted.
Kelly Mengelkoch, as The Woman, shows off her versatility in several different characters, As The Man, Billy Chace provides believable characters in his ETC debut. I just wish the script had given him a bit more to do. Late in the show, the emotional payoff plays out at “the other place.” This superbly acted scene, between Pugh and Mengelkoch, is remarkable. Somehow both heart-breaking and strangely heart-warming, the actresses are simply brilliant.
The over-used (just an observation, not a complaint) contemporary theatrical conceit of time-hopping is handled well by director D. Lynn Meyers and performers. Brian c. Mehring’s lighting design smartly provides the audience with visual clues to help determine “when” we are. I also enjoyed the splash of color added to Juliana & Ian’s costumes (designed by Chad Phillips) for “the other place” flashback. Mehring’s set design is solid as usual, and very much in keeping with his personal style. That being said, I would like to, at some point, walk into the theater to see one of his sets that, at first glance, makes me think there is a guest set designer.
Smartly directed and acted, THE OTHER PLACE is compelling theater.
My rating: 4.25 out of 5
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