Now that nearly 13 percent of Americans are over 65, filmmakers no longer need to cater solely to an audience of 12-year-old boys. More often they have been choosing to bring seniors back from invisibility and making them the focus of their literary work ‚Äî as playwrights have been doing all along, because how many 12-year-old boys go to the theater?
But it‚Äôs a mixed blessing because they no longer depict seniors as chirpily falling in love at 70 or becoming successful entrepreneurs at 75. Now, more and more, they‚Äôre dealing with harrowing end-of-life issues.
Case in point: “Still Alice,” which won an Oscar for Julianne Moore as she fearfully descended into the hell of early-onset Alzheimer‚Äôs disease.
And now comes a play that is equally agonizing. It‚Äôs called “The Other Place,” and it follows actress Taylor Gilbert into the darkness of that same disease.
As the play opens, she has already started on her downward path. Her personality is undergoing the inevitable changes that accompany the disease: She is angry, argumentative, and irrational. Sometimes lucid, she is bewildered and frightened. And the butt of her abuse is her husband, who is trying to get her to acknowledge the problem and accept whatever help is available.
She is in denial and he is in despair.
“Not being myself is who I am,” she says defensively.
Playing her husband is Sam Anderson, who is impeccable in any role he plays. He works with the dynamic Gilbert in perfect disharmony. (The two of them are co-Artistic Directors of The Road Theatre Company; Gilbert is also the founder of the award-winning group.)
Sharr White, who wrote the play, has mounted it in sequences that move backward and forward in time. Starting in Boston in the present, it moves to St. Thomas 10 years previously, as Juliana (Gilbert) is making a pitch for a new pharmaceutical that her lab has developed. She is speaking at a doctors‚Äô conference and suddenly has “an episode” of memory loss and winds up in the hospital.
Meanwhile, she has been having intense hallucinations about her daughter, who ran away as a teenager and never came back. Ian (Anderson) tries to convince her that their daughter is dead, but Juliana insists that she receives frequent telephone calls from her.
At the same time, Juliana develops a nostalgic yearning for “the other place,” a family cottage on Cape Cod where she, Ian and their daughter had spent happy weekends.¬† But she doesn‚Äôt remember that they had sold “the other place” many years earlier.
There are subplots within subplots in this play, and Andre Barron has directed his principals exquisitely ‚Äî as he does with The Woman (Danielle Stephens) and The Man (Dirk Etchison), who each play multiple parts.
Adding to this production are fanciful projection designs created by Kaitlyn Pietras that depict the biological squiggles that accompany Juliana‚Äôs explanation of the new pharmaceutical as well as the pounding waves crashing on the shore of Cape Cod.¬† You can almost smell the salt water.
“The Other Place” opened Friday, Feb. 20, and will run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 11 at the Road Theatre Company‚Äôs second home, The Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., in North Hollywood.
From March 5 through April 26, “The Other Place” will run in repertory with Lucile Lichtblau‚Äôs “The English Bride.”
For tickets, call (818) 761-8838 or visit www.RoadTheatre.org.