THEATER: “Other Desert Cities” @ theREP, 9/30/14

October 7th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Daughter Brooke (Brenny Rabine) tries to explain to father Lyman (Kevin McGuire) that her upcoming book, a memoir, is loving. However, Lyman has serious concerns about the repercussions for the family.

Daughter Brooke (Brenny Rabine) tries to explain to father Lyman (Kevin McGuire) that her upcoming book, a memoir, is loving. However, Lyman has serious concerns about the repercussions for the family.

Review by Greg Haymes

As directed by Michael Bush, the word “tension” doesn’t quite begin to describe the mood of Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities,” currently on stage kicking off the 2014-2015 season at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.

If you’re a fan of the “Well-to-Do White Family Torn Asunder by a Deep, Dark, Never-to-Be-Spoken-About Secret” genre of drama, this one’s for you.

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But let’s get right to the heart of the matter…

Brenny Rabine delivers a simply stunning performance – a delicate balance of needy puppy and vicious bulldog – as Brooke, the prodigal daughter returning to her parents’ lavish, modern-cool Palm Springs home for the first time in six years. She’s a novelist who has been hospitalized for severe depression, but she’s pulled herself up out of her well of despair by writing a family memoir about her older brother, who committed suicide after his involvement in an anti-war bombing gone awry.

And that’s the fuse that ignites an all-out war between the maverick, left-leaning Brooke and her staunchly Republican parents.

Patriarch Lyman Wyeth (superbly played by theREP vet Kevin McGuire) is a former semi-famous Hollywood actor who was rewarded for his GOP loyalty with an ambassadorship. His wife Polly (Emmy Award-winner Ellen Parker, making a most impressive debut at theREP) is a former Hollywood screenwriter and the backbone of the family. Crashing at the home after a half-hearted stint in rehab is Polly’s sister and former screenwriting partner Silda (Marcy McGuigan with expert comic timing). And Brooke’s younger brother Trip (Torsten Hillhouse) is a reality television producer who finds himself caught in the line of fire between the warring Wyeth factions.

But Brooke is the catalyst, and Rabine is the star.

To ratchet up the emotion, Baitz has set the play on December 24, 2004, and a large oh-so-tastefully decorated Christmas tree looms smack dab in the middle of Paul Tate dePoo III’s pitch-perfect stage set, a constant reminder of the holiday season, as well as the hope and peace that it’s supposed to bring.

But, of course, all is not quite as it appears to be…

“Other Desert Cities” continues at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany through Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $20-$69.

SECOND OPINIONS:
Steve Barnes’ review at The Times Union
Alexander M. Stern’s review at Metroland
Will Gallagher’s review at Discover Albany
Richard DiMaggio’s review at Did You Weekend
Excerpt from Matthew G. Moross’ review at The Daily Gazette: “Reminiscent of Edward Albee’s biting family dramas (‘A Delicate Balance,’ in particular), Baitz’ play is an artfully constructed examination of an American Family in crisis. It also plays metaphor with a broader brushstroke of the country’s social (and political) landscape.
The betrayals played out between family members have a social score as well. But don’t let that dry academic description deter you either. This play is remarkably fascinating and a hell of a dramatic ride.”
Review at the Albany Buzz