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Critic's Choice

"The Other Place:" Is this narrator reliable?

Disturbing changes in store in the gripping 'The Other Place.' A theater review

“The first glimmer of it comes on a Friday. They've flown me to St. Thomas, some private golf resort, I pretend I'm giving a lecture but really it’s another sales pitch, I used to be enthralled by my new life, but the blush has come off the rose.”

With those ruthlessly economical words, the beleaguered heroine of “The Other Place” at the Road Theatre on Magnolia grabs our attention and retains it for the next 80 minutes.

Solid stagecraft, tautly quirky writing and crackerjack acting distinguish this compelling Los Angeles premiere of playwright Sharr White’s celebrated 2013 study of a neurologist who may be descending into dementia.

Or is she? One of the best aspects of White’s script is how fascinating yet unreadable Juliana Smithton (Taylor Gilbert) is, from her brittle account of a disturbing episode during her lecture at a pharmaceutical convention in the Virgin Islands onward.

Certainly, Juliana’s relationship with soon-to-be ex-husband Ian (Sam Anderson, spot-on) bears closer scrutiny than the scant info she gives her psychiatrist (a fine-tuned Danielle Stephens).

Then there is the daughter (Stephens again) who ran away at 15 with Juliana’s research assistant (Dirk Etchison, effective in a brief but critical role). And what about the Cape Cod beach house that gives the play its title and provides it with a whopper of a climax?

Andre Barron’s suave direction prohibits our getting ahead of the steadily unraveling plot, which zigzags from dark comedy to stark drama on a hairpin.

So does the transcendent Gilbert, whose mercurial, layered turn is acutely memorable, with longtime producing partner Anderson meeting her at every juncture --  here is a pairing made for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” or “The Dance of Death.”

Technical efforts are spare and atmospheric, particularly designer Kaitlyn Pietras’ modernist set and projections, which mingle with Pablo Santiago’s lighting, Michele Young’s costumes and David B. Marling’s sound to create an ethos of 21st century disorientation.

That’s only apt, since the space between truth and lies, loss and identity, is where “The Other Place” exists, and this striking production brings it to arresting fruition.

“The Other Place,” The Road on Magnolia, NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $34. (818) 761-8838 or www.roadtheatre.org. Running time:  1 hour, 20 minutes.

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