Nothing Says Holiday Cheer Like A Family Feud

Alright. I feel like this happened last year at the Pittsburgh Public Theater as well. A booming season with so of the most inspired works I've ever seen and then a let down with the last show. I feel bad saying this, because Good People, 1776 and Clybourne Park were SO GOOD, but I'm kind of ambivalent about Other Desert Cities, which is going on now until June 30th. But, as always, make your own decisions about whether or not you want to go, and once there, make your own review of it. This is the kind of show that will resonate deeply with some people but will totally flop with others. And I'm that weirdo in the middle.

Other Desert Cities at the Public Theater until June 30
Other Desert Cities takes place during "the most wonderful time of the year" in the home of Lyman (James DeMarse) and Polly Wyeth (Helena Ruoti) in Palm Springs. Lyman a former actor-politician and Polly are high in their class ranking, rubbing elbows with the Reagan's is one of their favorite hobbies, along with playing tennis at the country club and attending and hosting various fundraiser benefits. All fine and well, except for the deep secrets of this family including Polly's alcoholic sister, Silda (Susan Cella), their adult children, Trip (John Patrick Hayden), a reality TV producer, and Brooke (Pilar Witherspoon), a New York author, and the death of their eldest son, Henry.

While Lyman and Polly are strong Republicans, relying on traditions and expected manners, Silda and Brooke are the "crazy liberal type" meaning that they have a different opinion then Lyman and Polly on just about everything, while Trip tries his best to maintain a sense neutral. The family is brought together, for no other reason than to celebrate the holidays, and fret about what Brooke's new book is about. Brooke has been battling depression for the last few years after the death of Henry, even staying for extended periods of time in the hospital, has finally come out with a long awaited second novel. Only, it's not until now that the family finds out the book is not actually a novel, but a memoir, detailing the truth, as Brooke remembers, of all the family secrets, specifically, Henry's death.

The audience easily finds out that the villains in Brooke's story are her parents, the hero is her big brother, Henry and Trip, who was just a little kid at the time, cannot pick a side considering he doesn't know what happened back then. This plot is thick and rich, it's got juicy inside family secrets and details and it really does leave you hanging until the end with what really happened during the that time and how the family sorts it all out. My problem with the show, is that I feel it's over acted. Everyone in this cast is clearly talented and they know what kind of directions their characters would take in certain situations, but the over emphasis of minor lines and then of course the way over dramatic display of emotion is just too much for me. I understand the need to be big on stage, but yes, there is a such thing as too big. And in this particular production, a couple characters are just too big, which makes me not like them or connect to them and in the end made me only care for the character of Trip. Because he was neutral in the fights, had some fantastic one-liners and reminded me of one of my guy friends who always seems to have the best grasp of any situation.

The set design, as always, was amazing!
I'll admit that at one point during the first act, I thought 'am I really going to sit through the rest of this' because I just couldn't stand the inappropriate emphasis of characters and the annoying accent of another, but I knew if I walked out I wouldn't be giving the play the chance it deserved and it would just be plain rude, so I sat through to the end, and I will be the first to say, I did not see the ending coming the way it did. The writing of this show was planned out much better than I gave it credit for (shout out to Jon Robin Baitz) and I have to say that the final scene truly makes up for anything I didn't like. When you see it for yourself, I'm sure you'll understand what I mean.

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