The reason this play seems so timeless is because it lays bare a universal tragedy of ethic and human conflict. The acting is superb, reinforced by a powerful set. Admittedly, this parable /is/ contrived, which is not an insult. The playwrite's craft nicely emphasizes the absurdist realities that mirror life in the 21st century. However, like many articulate and tightly wrought dramas, this play really delivers thought-provoking, touching, and very compelling entertainment.
It's a tribute to the extraordinary acting of Cullum and Harris that The Other Side isn't unendurable. ...
The Other Side may elicit general feelings regarding the farcicality, the stupidity, of war. But the pace of Blanka Zizka's direction is shiftless, lugubrious; the play's moody hopelessness is numbing more than provocative. If Cullum and Harris elegantly shade their roles with wit and depth, it's because they find humanity in such an antitheatrical mise en scène. There's value in that, but there would be more if the play had something direct to say.
Gene Farber makes a slightly stiff guard, but the acting from the two leads, Rosemary Harris and John Cullum, could not be better. That's the problem, for neither actor is able to rise above the allegorical and stereotypical. Harris and Cullum do what they can with Dorfman's trite dialogue trying to be both seriously profound and profoundly funny, but they can't help lift "The Other Side' from the mundane to the marvelous.
Dorfman’s work often deals with the ambiguous emotional fallout of political strife—but when his open-ended dramas are matched with unspecific acting, as they are here, the dialogue loses its potency for subtext.