Other Desert Cities – by AnnMarie Welser

February 18, 2013 in Blog by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

What starts as a picturesque family holiday turns drastically into a examination of one family’s dark and mysterious past. “Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Henry Wishcamper tackles many of society’s issues including family life, depression, and politics. As the story unfolds, Brooke Wyeth comes to her overly-republican home for the holidays, along with a manuscript of her all inclusive memoir within which lies her family’s darkest secret.

The play transitions from drama to comedic levity, ultimately asking the question, what makes a true family? Each actor of the strong, five-member cast helped to create a great onstage atmosphere truly capturing every element of the average day family. Both very convincing in their roles, Deanna Dunagan (Polly) and Chelcie Ross (Lyman) mastered the extremely republican family head figures and brought true drama to the production. On the contrary, John Hoognakker (easy-going Trip) and Linda Kimbrough (alcoholic Silda) brought all the comedic relief. The lead, Tracy Michelle Arnold (Brooke) made all feel her role, yet seemed to forget the basics to theatre as she had her back to the audience multiple times. Directed to such actions or not, it seemed awkward.

Technical elements tied the bow to the production. The entire play revolved around one set and being as real as it seemed, it was well approved. The quarters within the play fit the California easy feel, making all audience members feel at home. From dark and comfortable to dazzling and vivid clothing, the costume design brought each character to life.

As the debating continuously dragged on, the play finally connected to all audiences. As Trip, the goofball of a brother brought the most knowledge. That through it all one must live in the moment and that family matters most, and nothing could ever change that. As it does not matter how far or close family may be, but that they will always be there.