Politics and Secrets in Palm Springs, California – by Julia Szromba

February 12, 2013 in Blog by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

The Goodman Theatre’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ explores family and truth with remarkable success

For anyone looking for well-crafted and imaginative new play, Other Desert Cities, which recently opened at the Goodman Theatre, will not disappoint.

The description for Jon Robin Baitz’s play makes you think you’ll be seeing “Keeping up with the Kardashians” meets the Reagan family. While true in some aspect, this play, directed by Henry Wishcamper, is about so much more than just one famous and politically involved family’s drama.

This fast-paced story will make you gasp, laugh and question the unspoken laws that govern family, as well as the definition and limitations of truth. Full of secrets, deception, humor and political satire on both ends of the spectrum, this play actually seems to have something for everyone.

The story opens on Christmas Eve 2004 with the Wyeth family gathering in Palm Springs for the holiday. Thomas Lynch’s inventive set design creates the illusion of a mansion’s first floor complete with a fireplace, kitchen sink and a couch, where most of the story unfolds. The windows in the background look out on to trimmed garden hedges and mountains in the distance. You can almost smell the chlorine from the pool, taste the whiskey that each character inevitably drinks and feel the dry desert heat.

The central character is Brooke (Tracy Michelle Arnold), a liberal writer from Manhattan, who comes to her parents’ home with a copy of her latest manuscript, a tell-all memoir about her family. Tensions rise when her parents Polly (the outstanding Deanna Dunagan) and Lyman.

When: Through Feb. 17
Where: Goodman Theatre
Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission