Review of "The Other Place" at the Manhattan Theatre Club

Tonight, the fab Rich Potter took me to see “The Other Place,” as part of my Birthday present (that we celebrated on his Birthday).

Here’s my mostly spoiler-free review:

The writing is well done for the most part. I only had one “goink” where I wondered about the logic of what the playwright had set up. Otherwise, the writing is poignant and well done. She did telegraph a major plot point a little too much (for me) instead of letting it unfold naturally (let’s face it. If you mention/talk about/reference a red garnet necklace a lot during the course of a play, at some point the audience gets that that garnet necklace is going to be important, if not pivotal to the play’s resolution. She could have been more subtle here but the rest was so well done that I’m good with it.

The set was nicely done. It depicted a sort of mathematical, rigid chaos that mirrored the main character’s mental and emotional states. Well done there.

The direction was for the most part good. Some aspects of the production that were rough couldn’t be helped but that isn’t the fault of the director and I’ll get to that later.

Now, to the acting. Laurie Metcalf better get a Tony nomination out of this. If she doesn’t, well, there be nincompoops on whatever committee chooses them. She transformed seamlessly from one to another patina of personality and did so numerous times. She kept each succinct and made each one hers. Big Kudos to her. Oh and when she fell apart, we unraveled with her. Well done.

The supporting cast would have been great and could have been great. The woman who played the shrink/daughter/stranger didn’t change her characters enough to suit me. She changed her clothes and that, I guess, was supposed to be enough to tell us she was being a different person. I think she’s talented and will do well. But imho, she’s just not there yet. It could also be that she was up against Metcalf and that woman is a force to be reckoned with in this so it’s possible that the comparison highlights the discrepancy.

And now I come to one of my favorite actors, Bill Pullman. I’ve loved him since Ruthless People. He’s always had a “trust me and I will deliver the goods” quality and he has never disappointed me (except one tiny moment in “While You Were Sleeping” but I have a feeling that was how he was directed rather than the choices he made). He came in to save the day/play when Daniel Stern had to pull out suddenly. He had two weeks to memorize the show. He learned the blocking in his apartment, had two rehearsals with the cast, and one run through during an afternoon and then he went on that evening. Yeow. He achieved a lot with what he had. For that, I give him high marks, for sure. A lesser actor would not have been able to do nearly as much. However, since he hadn’t rehearsed with the rest of the cast, he just didn’t have the flow. The dialog is fast and furious. You need to have impeccable timing, impeccably rehearsed in order to do it justice. Mr. Pullman just hasn’t had enough time to get in the pocket. If he had a few more weeks, I’d say it would be phenomenal!

As it is, he tended to swallow his words and delivered his lines as if he the actor was just as frustrated with not quite having it all down as he the character was with what is happening to his wife.

He is wearing the clothes of his character but he hasn’t embodied him yet. And so, he went from zero to sixty (and sometimes back again) in no time in his own journey throughout the play and that was too rough and jarring a treatment of the man he was portraying. He also just wasn’t in the pocket in his interactions with Metcalf’s character. They ended up running over each other’s lines because the dialog moves so quickly and so we lost some of the tension, passion, and connection these two were supposed to have.

I would loved to have seen it either with Stern or with a better rehearsed Pullman.

The show moved me, but if either of the above had occurred, it would have completely blown me away.


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