Review: Other Desert Cities

by librarykris on April 27, 2014

Lyman and Polly Wyeth are wealthy Republicans enjoying their lives in Palm Springs. Their children, Brooke and Trip, are at their parents’ place for Christmas for the first time in six years. Also staying for Christmas is Polly’s sister Silda. She’s been in rehab. Everything seems to be going well (at least, as well as it could be) when Brooke tells her parents she’s written another book. Only this one isn’t a novel, it’s about her childhood. There’s a secret in the family history, and Lyman and Polly don’t want it shared.

The script by Jon Robin Baitz is wordy and smart. There is banter as well as small indicators of the state of family relationships all leading to a dramatic ending. Director Ross Jolly has melded a strong ensemble who use good American accents to bring the script to life. Jeffrey Thomas plays Lyman. He’s a man secure in his wealth and enjoying his retirement. Thomas plays the levels of emotion over the performance very well. Catherine Downes captures Polly as the real power in the family. She’s bright and breezy with a lightness of touch that encloses a core of steel in the character. Brooke is played by Michelle Langstone. She shows the desperation and emotional turmoil of the character with exacting focus while at the same time seeming completely natural. Paul Waggott plays Trip. His character is the peacemaker in the family. Waggott makes the most of his scenes including a particularly affecting emotional reveal in one. Emma Kinane is Aunt Silda, perhaps the most likeable character – even though she’s on serious medication making her a bit woozy. Kinane is very good in the comic sections. She is excellent in the second half when her character becomes less comic relief.

The set by┬áJohn Hodgkins resembles a luxury home, all wood and stone. It’s beautifully open and spare. It is well used by the cast who roam all over it although some of the audience sightlines are lost during the more powerful moments.

Outstanding. Deserving of large audiences.

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