Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 3, $67-$120
Three-time Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf won both an Obie and a Lucille Lortel Award for her 2011 off-Broadway portrayal of neurologist Juliana Smithson in Sharr White’s The Other Place, and now she has a strong shot at a Tony as the play moves to Broadway in the gripping MTC production at the Samuel J. Friedman. Metcalf stars as Juliana, a pharmaceutical pitch-woman who suffers an “episode” while on the road touting a new wonder drug. Long estranged from her daughter (Zoe Perry, Metcalf’s real-life daughter, in her Broadway debut) and accusing her doctor-husband, Ian (Daniel Stern), of having an affair with her much-younger doctor (Perry again), Juliana is trying to hold herself together even as she believes she has brain cancer. But as the complex, highly cinematic play continues, it becomes evident that she is suffering from something very different, and in many ways far more frightening. White and Tony-winning director Joe Mantello (Other Desert Cities, Wicked, Love! Valour! Compassion!) tell Juliana’s harrowing story by going back and forth between the past and the present, as Justin Townsend’s lighting signals the time shifts. The action takes place within set designers Eugene Lee and Edward Pierce’s semicircular web of bleak gray frames (hiding lights and speakers) that serve as doors, windows, and mirrors while also evoking the misfiring synapses of Juliana’s brain. Metcalf (Rosanne, November) gives a dazzling performance as Juliana, an intelligent, scientific woman who doesn’t understand — and is unwilling to accept — what is happening to her. As the audience filters into the theater, she is already onstage, sitting in a chair, fiddling with her cell phone, helping the incoming crowd instantly identify with her. But soon it’s Ian, strongly portrayed by Stern, who is standing in for the audience as the truth is slowly revealed. Despite a few missteps — primarily a somewhat baffling finale that takes things much too far — The Other Place is an involving eighty minutes of fascinating theater, expertly told and brilliantly acted.