By Dee Jay Cox
The word theater comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation. – Stella Adler
And no greater example of finding truth about life and the social situation can be found than in Desert TheatreWorks current production of Jon Robin Baitz’s Pulitzer Prize nominated drama, ‘Other Desert Cities.’ Every now and then I leave the theater with the knowledge that I have just experienced what really good theater is all about. Such is the case with ‘Other Desert Cities.’ A poignant drama that makes you laugh out loud and choke up with emotion in equal balance.
Brook Wyeth, performed beautifully by Daniela Ryan, is a writer who has had her share of hard knocks. Returning to her family home in Palm Springs for a Christmas holiday, after six years of separation and a history of severe depression, comes bearing gifts and a new memoire that threatens to tear apart the seams of the fabric that holds this resilient, yet fragile family together. Marjory Lewis and her real life husband Jason Lewis, once again bring their magic to the stage as Polly and Lyman Wyeth, Brooke’s parents, who have long buried family secrets that do not fit the image of this wealthy, Republican couple, whose successful careers and lives have been built atop a shaky foundation.
Brooke’s younger brother Trip, portrayed by Luke Rainey, is looked upon as the peacemaker and only stable member of this unstable family. But even his efforts to find the middle ground can’t stop the inevitable explosion when truth slaps the face of long believed lies. While I did not find this role to be especially pivotal to the story, Rainey’s performance gave it the spark that made the character so likable.
Though it is the role of Silda Grauman, Polly’s alcoholic, newly out of rehab, sister, brilliantly performed by award winning actress June August, that really steals the show and had me hanging on her every quip and insight. Silda is the observer who’s struggling to handle a sober reality with her family. Her quick wit and smart humor reveal some of the funniest insights and most poignant truths.
Lance Phillips-Martinez, once more demonstrated why he is such a talented and well respected Director. And Bruce Weber’s set is one of the best that I have seen on any small stage. I was immediately captivated and drawn to the realistic set design and furnishings, which complimented the story so perfectly.
Ron Phillips-Martinez’s hair and make-up, Michele Dobson’s costumes all served to round out this beautifully executed piece of theatrical art.
Desert TheatreWorks production of ‘Other Desert Cities’ will remind you of what top notch theater is all about and how a good play can resonate long after the curtain goes down. Don’t wait to get your tickets. I can’t imagine this show will not be selling out quickly for its remaining run.
Other Desert Cities, a production of Desert Theatreworks, can be seen through April 17th at the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, located at 73750 Catalina Way in Palm Desert.
For Reservations: call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and host of the hit radio show, “California Woman 411.”