The Fall season of professional theatre in New Jersey has started with a collection of outstanding performances by women. Last Thursday, for example, we had the great pleasure of reviewing in Madison the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's world premiere of A Most Dangerous Woman starring the exceptional Aedin Moloney; on Saturday we marveled at Katrina Ferguson as Maria Callas in the Women's Theater Company's production of Master Class in Parsippany; on Sunday we were awed by Andrea Gallo's old crone in the New Jersey Repertory Company's Broomstick in Long Branch; and last night we witnessed another mesmerizing (knockout may be a better word) lesson in acting from Harriet Trangucci at the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre in Summit. The play The Other Place by Sharr White and directed by Clark Carmichael is a New Jersey premiere. The Other Place premiered off-Broadway early in 2011 and later moved to Broadway.
Mr. White has written a powerful, challenging puzzle of a psycho-drama that defies the normal reviewer description. The only plot elements we are willing to reveal in this complex drama are that Harriet Trangucci plays Juliana, a brilliant Boston scientist turned drug salesperson who is troubled by her failing marriage and the loss of her daughter to a colleague 15 years her daughter's senior. We first meet her center stage making a slide presentation to a medical conference in a hotel in St. Thomas. She shares her thoughts with us particularly about the strange girl dressed only in a yellow bikini seated in the center of the physicians. Via a series of relatively short scenes the conference presentation is interrupted as we meet her husband, Ian, an oncologist (Harry Patrick Christian); their estranged daughter, Laurel (Jessica O'Hara Baker); Laurel's husband, Richard (Dave Maulbeck); and Cindy a young doctor treating Juliana (Jessica O'Hara Baker doubles). To reveal any further details would spoil your enjoyment of this clever play where nothing is as it seems.
Now, back to Harriet Trangucci. She is a key member of the Dreamcatcher's rep company, We first saw her as the mother in Distracted about three years ago ("Leading the cast is Harriet Trangucci, who is on stage during the entire two hours and is our narrator, she is perfect as "Mama" the loving, sensitive mother.) Just this past spring she co-starred with Duncan M. Rogers in Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at the Bickford Theatre. Then we said: Harriet Trangucci..." is a marvelous actress who moves through these three stories perfectly." The words "perfect" and "marvelous" normally are the highest praise you can give to an actor, but Harriet Trangucci has provided us in "The Other Place" with a performance worthy of any stage. Simply put, the play is good, but Trangucci is great. Her final scene is incredible.
Note: The play's title The Other Place is how Julianna and Ian refer to their summer house on Cape Cod.
Supporting Trangucci are three other terrific actors, all members of the Dreamcatcher's Rep group: Harry Patrick Christian, Jessica O'Hara-Baker and Dave Maulbeck. Christian is spot-on as the compassionate Ian, he always makes acting seem effortless; Jessica O'Hara-Baker's ability to move easily between drama and comedy always impresses; Dave Maulbeck, the master comedian, surprises in reverse with his ease in playing dramatic roles.
The versatility of Laura Ekstrand (artistic director) and Steve McIntyre's (general manager) company of performers (including Scott McGowan and Noreen Farley...who is off at the Bickford in The Last Romance) is truly remarkable. In our review for Distracted we said "one of the finest groups of actors we've had the pleasure of watching perform in a long time." Point proven again with this fascinating production of The Other Place.
The creative staff of The Other Place: director Clark Carmichael; producer Laura Ekstrand; lighting designer Zach Pizza; sound design Jeff Knapp; stage managers Danielle Constance and Amy Hadam.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio October 3, 2013
The Other Place will run at Dreamcatcher through Sunday, October 20. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors and students, with special rates for subscribers and groups. Purchase tickets online at www.dreamcatcherrep.org or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006. Seniors pay only $15 on advance purchases only on Senior Sunday, theOctober 6 matinee. The play runs about 80 minutes without an intermission.
Performances are at The Oakes Center, located at 120 Morris Avenue in Summit. Parking is available in the lot behind the theatre on Ashwood Avenue and at the Summit Recreation Center on Morris Avenue. The facility is wheelchair accessible.
Assistive Listening devices for the hearing impaired and advance large print scripts are available by prior arrangement. To purchase tickets or for information on any of Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre's programs, please visitwww.dreamcatcherrep.org or contact Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre at The Oakes Center, 120 Morris Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901, 908-514-9654.