by Chris Davis
Go to The Other Place. It’s not an uplifting play, this story of Dr. Juliana Smithton, a biophysicist developing drugs to treat dementia, while losing her grip on reality. She has brain cancer. Or maybe she doesn’t. Her husband is screwing around and filing for divorce. Or maybe he's not. Her daughter’s dead in a ditch somewhere, or maybe she's at the bottom a the river sleeping with the fishes, or maybe — just maybe — she’s dropping by the family’s second home and bringing the twins to visit grandmother.
Sharr White's critically acclaimed play The Other Place is not an uplifting experience but, with its unique structure and big heart, it's an experience audiences are unlikely to forget any time soon. For fans of good acting and unconventional mysteries, its arrival at Circuit Playhouse is fantastic news. This is the rare piece of theater where everything you think you know one minute is wiped clean in the next, stringing viewers along until the hopeful, but not very happy end.
Go to The Other Place. You’ll see Kim Sanders play an unsuspecting woman with problems of her own who’s come home to drown her sorrows in wine and Chinese takeout only to find a stranger in the kitchen who wants to hug it out. This scene between Sanders and an astonishingly good Kim Justis is funny, tense, hard to watch, impossible not to watch, and as fine a thing as anyone is likely to watch on any stage probably ever. Unless something extraordinary occurs between now and August — and it certainly could — this is the scene that will very likely earn both performers an Ostrander award.
Go to The Other Place, where Michael Gravois vividly falls apart and pulls himself together after taking more than anybody could ever be expected to bear and where Kinon Keplinger shows, once again, that he’s among the most versatile character actors in town. These are two of Memphis's most reliable actors at the top of their game. Gravois is uncommonly vulnerable here, and a magnificent ensemble player. His most heart crunching sounds happen off stage, framing and lifting some of Justis' best work to date. Keplinger has taken on more showy roles in the past but he's never been better.
Go to The Other Place. Director Dave Landis and his first-rate cast and crew have served up 90 minutes of bracing uncertainty. It's a tight, concise script with zero padding, and beautifully acted. It's not the best thing I've seen, but it's the best I've seen in Memphis in ages. Just go.