It’s been several years since Roseanne’s TV’s family entertained audiences on prime time. As the long- running show continued, the family added Roseanne’s ditzy younger sister Jacky, played by Laurie Metcalfe. The role earned her three Emmy Awards as she provided just the right amount of zany warmth opposite Roseanne Barr’s sarcastic wit.
Well, it’s been years and those who still watch HUB and ANT TV may be surprised to see that little Jackie’s all grown up. Reprising her role in the powerful Off-Broadway show The Other Place, Metcalfe plays Juliana Smithton, an intelligent, drug-company scientist who, having worked on the gene to cure dementia, is now addressing groups promoting the new drug. Keenly aware of her role as a woman in a man’s world, Julianna is attractive, caustic and commanding.
At first she is totally in control of her audience, her speech and herself. Then Juliana begins to unravel. She is in the Virgin Islands when she suffers what she labels an “episode”, and she becomes convinced that she has a brain tumor, especially given that she has family history of the disease.
All the dialogue is in present tense and, for a while, the audience is bewildered. What is happening when? It’s hard to reconcile the order of events. Juliana’s husband (well-played by Daniel Stern appears. Having cheated on her, is he now divorcing her? She speaks to their estranged daughter on the phone. Zoe Perry, Metcalfe’s actual daughter, plays all the daughter and other, small female roles. The audience is not sure what is real and what isn’t, what has really happened and what hasn’t. It’s confusing and bewildering and suddenly one gets a sense of Juliana’s disorientation. The tightly drawn drama, written by playwright Sharr White, is powerful and disturbing, but it wouldn’t bee as effective without Metcalfe’s brilliant performance. Her portrayal as a strong woman shows vulnerability, weakness yet determination and strength. When she finally becomes aware of what is happening to her, there’s a sense of tragic irony that is even more poignant given how smart and sharp she is.
This is not an upbeat play, one that will leave you smiling. In fact, you may leave wiping tears from your eyes. Perhaps you will see something that’s uncomfortably familiar. But it is all too real. The Other Place refers to a Cape Cod home the couple owned before their daughter left. It also may refer to memories, real or imagined. This is a tour-de force of acting by Metcalfe who gives a wonderful performance - one you can add to your own theater memories.