Theatre Review: Other Desert Cities

Irene Ziegler, Sandi Carroll, Joe Inscoe. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Irene Ziegler, Sandi Carroll, Joe Inscoe. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Brooke Wyeth, daughter of a prominent Republican politician, returns home for Christmas, and brings home with her a manuscript of her second book – a memoir.  When Brooke’s memoir threatens to reveal a deeply hidden family secret, the truth begins to unravel and Brooke learns something about her parents that she had never imagined.

Sprawling across the stage, the Wyeth home feels perfectly designed by Ben Burke.  Lynne M. Hartman’s lighting compliments the set beautifully, with a soft glow of the sun over the mountains and the gentle reflection from the pool in the backyard.

Sandi Carroll’s Brooke is convincing as the tortured writer, recovering from depression, both seeking the approval of her parents and rebelling against them.  Carroll’s Brooke is flawed and self-righteous yet honest and the audience roots for her as she struggles to learn the truth about her family.

Mike Long, Melissa Johnston Price. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Irene Ziegler plays the cunning Polly, the strong mother that Brooke vilifies. Joe Inscoe is almost too likable as patriarch Lyman Wyeth.

Melissa Johnston Price wonderful as Silda, Polly’s sister, a recovering alcoholic who hates living with her sister but has no where else to turn.  Mike Long is Trip, Brooke’s TV producing, pot smoking younger brother who provides comic relief and suddenly offers some unexpected insight which can only be offered by watchful little siblings.

The show, however, was not without its challenges.  Other Desert Cities is an intimate production which causes the audience to want to lean in closer, more suited perhaps to their former, more intimate space in Willow Lawn.  Despite the floor mics some lines were dropped. 
Along with the challenges of the space, there was a general lack of stillness on stage which often detracted from the tension.  Actors were fidgety or given extraneous blocking which distracted from the intensity of the moment.

All in all, the production is worth a night out to the theatre.  Other Desert Cities delivers a drama with dysfunctional family, drug use, alcohol addiction, mental illness, and politics without the usual “great, now I’m depressed” theatrical hangover.

Other Desert Cities

April 24 – May 18, 2014
Wednesdays – Sundays
At the November Theatre
114 West Broad Street
(804) 282-2620
$23 – $46 (Students $10 on day of show)