Epic Theatre Artistic Director Kevin Broccoli saw Sharr White’s “The Other Place” in New York and “knew I had to do it.” He also knew who he wanted to direct (Lara Hakeem) and who he wanted to play the key role of Juliana (Emily Lewis).
Lewis’ portrayal of a middle-aged professional woman who slowly observes herself coming apart, shows a range of emotion that makes for gripping theatre. Her performance is further enhanced by the proximity of audience to actors at Artists Exchange’s intimate black box theatre.
Juliana is lecturing a group of doctors on one of those “conferences” that drug companies conduct on a sunny Caribbean island. She is growing forgetful, and her mind wanders between reality and fantasy. In reality, Juliana’s teenage daughter ran away years earlier, and she has lost touch with her. There is a strain on her marriage as she drifts off into another world. Marriage therapy and medical tests aren’t helping much, as she is convinced that she has brain cancer. She has become unpredictable, intimidating, condescending and impossible to reason with.
“Why do I say these things?” she asks herself as she loses control of her actions and words.
The journey into early onset dementia is at times a frightening one, both for Juliana and her caring but confused husband.
Lewis gives a most convincing, poignant and often funny performance as this complex and often out-of-control woman who at times can’t find the right words to express her feelings. At times complacent, at times brutally frank and at times showing her rage, the woman screams out for help and understanding, not only from her husband and doctor but also from herself.
The 80-minute, one-act play is riveting theatre. Hakeem has a clear understanding of the health issues and directs the performance tightly, taking advantage of the small space. Lewis is surrounded by a good cast, with Robert C. Reynolds as her husband and Kerry Giorgi and Aaron Morris playing a couple of important roles each.
“The Other Place” is at Artists Exchange space at 50 Rolfe St. in Cranston through Nov. 23. Tickets are $15/$12 for students. Check them out at www.epictheatre.org or www.artists-exchange.org.