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Other Desert Cities

a Comedy/Drama
by Jon Robin Baitz

COMPANY : Out of Box Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Artisan Resource Center
ID# 4778

SHOWING : September 11, 2015 - September 26, 2015



Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with her prominent Republican parents, her brother, and her aunt. Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history—a wound they don’t want reopened. In effect, she draws a line in the sand and dares them all to cross it. Written by ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters” creator Jon Robin Baitz, it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee.

Director Kirk Harris Seaman
Silda Grauman Rose Bianco
Trip Wyeth Matthew Busch
Polly Wyeth Carolyn Choe
Brooke Wyeth Amanda Cucher
Lyman Wyeth Rial Ellsworth
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


O. Henry!
by playgoer
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
"Other Desert Cities" tells the story of the Wyeth family, whose parents are staunch Republicans and whose eldest son, Henry, was involved in a terrorist bombing before leaving a note and jumping off a ferry. The remaining two children attempt to deal with their brother’s suicide as best they can, with the daughter penning a memoir that exposes what she believes to be the truth of Henry’s life. The play follows the repercussions of this memoir on the family dynamic. During the process, long-held secrets are revealed.

The first act introduces the characters: the mother, Polly (Carolyn Choe); the father, Lyman (Rial Ellsworth); the daughter, Brooke (Amanda Cucher); the remaining son, Trip (Matthew Busch); and Polly’s sister Silda Grauman (Rose Bianco). The introductions contain a lot of humor, much of it centering around the mother’s lack of political correctness. Laughs punctuate the first act before things get a lot more serious in the second act, when the daughter’s memoir has been read by her family. Still, laughs or not, the action remains engrossing throughout.

Performances are uniformly good, although Ms. Choe had a lot of obvious line bobbles at the early performance I saw. Due to the cast overlap and the privileged milieu, there are similarities to "The House of Yes" from earlier in the year at Out of Box, and that lessens the impact of this show for people who regularly attend productions at this venue. Ms. Cucher’s performance is all one could wish, but she doesn’t overpower the rest of the cast. Every actor has his or her moment.

There’s another resemblance to "The House of Yes" in terms of set. William Joel Coady’s set design is generally elegant, but it has problems with right angles in the constructed sliding doors at center stage, as if it were built without the use of a level. With elegant, long windows at either side that contain perfectly proportioned panes, the skewed angles in the door are very apparent. There’s also an obviously hand-built table near the hallway entry, but at least it’s painted black to make it blend in with the wall. It’s really a lovely set, but just lacks a couple of touches to make it truly first rate.

Alessa Walle’s lighting and Kirk Harris Seaman’s sound are just fine, although few effects are needed until a spotlighted lectern is used for the final scene. The view out the windows and sliding door, ostensibly to the yard of an upscale house in Palm Springs, California, is to a plain backdrop tinged with purple lighting. It’s perhaps not the most inventive design decision, but it works just fine. This is a good-looking production, costumes and all.

Kirk Harris Seaman has directed "Other Desert Cities" with a nice variety of blocking choices and levels of emotion that let the story come through clearly. Jon Robin Baitz’s script reveals the truth of Henry’s life slowly, with a little bit of an O. Henry twist that points out how the audience has been misled. The last scene acts as a bittersweet wrap-up. Ms. Cucher nails this scene, ending the show on a high note. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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