Juliana is an intense, 50-ish professional, specializing in cutting-edge pharmaceuticals for dementia patients. She jets to a Caribbean resort to make a presentation before a large gathering of doctors. But midway into her sales pitch, her mind freezes up — and she loses it.
She’s sure her problem is a brain tumor. When she gets home, her husband — a widely respected oncologist — is furious that she didn’t immediately receive better care.
But is it a brain tumor? As you may be sensing, there is something about this situation that doesn’t add up.
That’s the setup for Capital Stage’s The Other Place, about a high-powered businesswoman who is afflicted by a sudden, mysterious illness. It almost resembles a whodunnit, because each character presents a slightly different version of what’s really going on.
Over the course of several scenes, the audience encounters conflicting explanations about the nature of Juliana’s illness, as well as the status of her marriage — depending on the scene, she and her husband may (or may not) be getting a divorce.
And then there are the mysterious phone calls she’s getting from their long-estranged daughter.
As the plot thickens, it becomes clear that each of these characters seems to believe they are telling the truth — you don’t get the sense that anyone is deliberately lying — and that Juliana really is seriously ill. But with what ailment?
Playwright Sharr White keeps you guessing, planting clues in different scenes. Along the way, there is plenty of terrific acting, particularly by lead actress Melinda Parrett, presenting a complex and sometimes contradictory character, and Jonathan Rhys William as her increasingly exasperated spouse.
Describing the plot in greater detail might spoil the ending. So, approach this intriguing, unusual play with your eyes and ears wide open, and focus on figuring out what character is the most credible source. Because in this play, situations are not always what they initially appear to be.
It all makes for a very absorbing mind game, one that pays off handsomely in dramatic terms when things fall into place during the final scene.
The Other Place continues at Capital Stage in Sacramento through June 2.