Written by 5:34 pm Newport Beach, Newport Theatre Arts Center, Review, Theater, Uncategorized

Other Desert Cities @ Newport Theatre Arts Center – Review

pc: Sarah Whitwell

Written by Daniella Litvak

“There’s no need to argue, parents just don’t understand” [1]

“Yeah, kids are idiots. If they knew half the stuff their folks were up to, they’d lose their minds.” [2]

As long as there have been plays, there have been plays about dysfunctional families.   Diving into family dynamics is a great way to explore the human condition and conflicts of the heart. Whether your play takes place in ancient Greece or Palm Springs, California, in the 2000s, this is true. The latter is the setting for Other Desert Cities.

It is Christmas Eve. After a tumultuous six years that involved coping with divorce and depression, novelist Brooke Wyeth (Kendall Sinclair) has traveled from New York to her parents, Lyman (Jeff Paul) and Polly (Linda Sutera), home in Palm Springs. Also there for the holidays is Trip (Ben Green), Brooke’s younger brother and a TV producer, and Silda (Alli Maier), Polly’s sister, recently released from rehab. The main reason Brooke has come is to announce her latest novel is a memoir about Henry, her elder brother, who was part of an anti-war bombing of a draft board during the Vietnam War and committed suicide. Lyman and Polly are aghast that Brooke would publicly air out the family’s dirty laundry. What ensues is a clash of ideologies and the unearthing of the Wyeths’ darkest secrets.

Jeff Paul, Linda Sutera, and Kendall Sinclair.

Other Desert Cities touches upon a lot of weighty subjects, but it is also unexpectedly funny. The comedy blends in very well and never feels jarring. There are many good back-and-forth exchanges among the characters.

For the most part, the plotting around Brooke’s memoir is well done. I wish there had been more emphasis on Brooke and Silda’s relationship at the beginning since it would have made later reveals land harder.

Kendall Sinclair, Linda Sutera and Alli Maier

There aren’t subplots per se, but it feels like there should be subplots anchored by Silda and Trip. Silda makes for good comic relief – the moment she perfumes herself with alcohol was one of the biggest laughs of the night – and Maier plays the role well, but with only a few edits, the character could have been excised from the story without us missing much. At the same time, the character is developed enough that she could have been the protagonist in a play of her own. The same goes for Trip. He’s the most sympathetic character in the play. His struggles are as interesting – if not more so – than Brooke’s. I wanted more of his story or at least more resolution for the character.

The cast across the board was strong. They had chemistry with one another and felt like a family. Sinclair, Paul, and Sutera did a good job of keeping their characters engaging even as sympathy towards them fluctuated. Green as Trip was the standout performance of the night. He played the comical and serious aspects of the character equally well.

Surprise, surprise, the action takes place in the living room, and the set does not change much during the show. I liked the set design because, at first glance, I could immediately tell the setting was Palm Springs. Another thing I quickly picked up from set design alone was the Wyeth’s affluence. The fireplace effects were a nice touch.

[1] “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

[2] The Good Place

Review
8.1 Overall
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Story8
Acting8.5
Set & Design8.5
Costumes7
Entertainment8.5
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Good Show! OCR Recommended! Jan 19 – Feb 11, 2024. 

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