“Other Desert Cities” succeeds, bleeds drama

By: Alex Spindler

The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati set the stage for the regional premiere of the play “Other Desert Cities,” written by Jon Robin Baitz.

This drama takes place during Christmas of 2004 and deals with the Wyeth family living in post-9/11 America where threats of political upheaval and terrorism are constantly discussed.

Brooke, the youngest daughter, has just left rehabilitation for her manic-depression and has written a memoir concerning the suicide of her brother, Henry, as well as her family’s past.

Unbeknownst to everyone, a terrible truth lies beneath the buried Wyeth family history and Brooke’s parents, Polly and Lyman, are not ready to reveal it.

Though a bit sluggish with drawn-out monologues and a lull in terms of plot development, “Other Desert Cities” was still a true knockout. Intelligently written, this show strikes at the core of familial dysfunction and shows just how secretive our parents can really be. Taking the crown for the best performance of the night was Amy Warner who portrayed the matriarch, Polly Wyeth.

Bigoted, big-mouthed and conniving, she embodied a mother who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Rounding off the cast as the show-stopper was Dale Hodges who played Polly’s alcoholic and hilarious sister, Silda.

The audience made her presence truly welcomed with rapturous applause and belly laughs every time she opened her mouth.

Regarding the plot line and storytelling, the narrative was gripping.

You felt Brooke’s desperation when she begged for her parents’ forgiveness and the plot enveloped you to the point where you felt so in-tune with the character’s emotions.

There were even times when gasps and the occasional sob became audible when the twisted revelation of the Wyeth past (a spoiler which I dare not give) was revealed.

While slow to start, “Other Desert Cities” left me emotionally exhausted.

The wordplay and intense characterizations gripped me by the handle and never gave me a chance to catch my breath.

While the Ensemble Theatre’s run of “Other Desert Cities” may have ended last Sunday, be sure to look out for this compelling drama at a theater near you.

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