How would you explain the movie The Sixth Sense to someone without giving away its surprises? Talking with director and producer Christy Webb-Gibson about her upcoming production of The Other Place is just as difficult. Not because it has anything to do with the supernatural or seeing dead people, but because part of what makes Sharr White’s psychological drama so thrilling is not knowing how it ultimately plays out.
Telling the story of Juliana Smithton, a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged, White has crafted a clever story where little is as it seems and for Webb and her team, that is both a blessing and a curse.
“We are, of course, aware of what is actually taking place,” says Webb-Gibson. “But it actually brings the actors to a richer understanding of the play.”
While Webb-Gibson says as a director she would not normally pay much attention to the stage directions in a script, in The Other Place they have been invaluable, by helping to provide an understanding of how the pieces all fit. Problem is, she says, White has provided very few directions and it has become a challenging rehearsal process as she and her cast break down the already short 75 minute play into smaller scenes.
“It has been exhausting,” admits Webb-Gibson of the rehearsal process. “It has been a difficult process, but we are breaking down who these people are and stitching together the various interlocking pieces”.
That difficult rehearsal process sounds like it is paying off for Webb-Gibson and her team though as she finds herself drawn even deeper into White’s story.
“This is the only play that I can remember reading and loving every single word,” says Webb-Gibson. “It was like reading one of those rare great books where it just grabs you from the start and keeps you hanging on right until the very end.”
Beyond a good read though, Webb-Gibson also points to the topical nature of the story and, again careful to stay away from any spoilers, points to how the central revelation in The Other Place is so current.
“What we see happen to Juliana is so real,” concludes Webb-Gibson. “When the big reveal is made about three-quarters of the way through the play it is absolutely heart wrenching and many, many people will be able to relate.”
Billed as the Canadian premiere, interestingly enough Toronto’s Canadian Stage has also laid claim to being the first company to present The Other Place in Canada as part of its next season. One can only assume that the Vancouver rights were granted after the Canadian Stage announced its line-up. In any event, score one for Webb for wrestling the Canadian premiere away from Toronto.
Do your Toronto theatre-going friends a favour though and take a cue from Alfred Hitchcock who famously addressed audiences at the end of Psycho with this admonition: “don’t give away the ending – it’s the only one we have.”
The Other Place plays the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St) from June 26 to July 5. Tickets are available online through Tickets Tonight. Visit http://theotherplacevancouver.ca for more information.