Other Desert Cities: My Review

Categories: Theater

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Move over, Addams Family.

The most intriguingly dysfunctional clan in town is now the one in Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities, in which a tell-all book manuscript surfacing at Christmastime puts the hell back in holidays.

Stacy Keach and Stockard Channing play country-clubbing Republican marrieds in Palm Springs, the latter prone to dropping Nancy Reagan's name and spouting wisdoms like, "Sarcasm is the purview of teenagers and homosexuals."

Their son (Thomas Sadowski) is a petulant but sometimes illuminating hack who produces a judicial TV show on which the jury consists of has-been celebrities (as Stockard reminds him with, yes, sarcasm).

Stockard's sis (played by Judith Light) is an alcoholic who wears fake Pucci but generally spouts aching truths about everything except herself.

And back home after a breakdown is daughter Rachel Griffiths, who's just penned a book designed to blame the folks for the suicide of her brother the radical all those icky years ago.

Oh, yeah, there was the little matter of that suicide, a wound that will get opened way before any potential gifts do.

Baitz's initial banter is fun, but in Act Two dimensions are added and the play becomes Tennessee Williams-like in its recriminations, revelations, and shifting loyalties, going beyond the scope of the usual "someone's spilling the beans" drama.

As the rage boils to a head, the characters (two of whom love saying "I know myself") find that they never really knew each other, and they're in for a few shocks that are well-played by a cast of well-knowns.

In the Joe Mantello-directed production, Channing is perfection in what is basically a very Stockard Channing role, Griffiths does well with her percolating rage, and Light scores when exploding into righteousness. (It's not her fault that I could still hear Linda Lavin's inflections in my mind -- and I didn't even see Lavin in the part!)

So, while they're altogether ooky -- and sometimes downright barbaric -- the Wyeths make for some very civilized theater.


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11 comments
CMG
CMG

All you had to say was Judith Light and Stockard Channing to have me wanting to see this.  

Ralph Benner
Ralph Benner

Let’s hear it for Judith Light, just about the most underrated actress working. Will never forget when she played Karen on "One Life to Live" and while married to Llanview’s most upstanding doctor she had to admit on the stand during a murder trial that Marko Dane was pimping her out to big moneyed johns. Light was very plumpy back then, but she was riveting -- she won Emmys for her work -- and you knew you were watching one of the rare breakthroughs on the soaps. She’s terrific as Claire in the "Ugly Betty" series, and no one to fuck with as Liz in "Law and Order: SVU."

jjschnobrich
jjschnobrich

Judith Light was amazing in this role.  She totally transformed herself and if I didn't know anything about this play or have a Playbill, it would have taken me the whole play to know it was her.   The cast was perfect, but she really stuck out as beyond perfect.  She deserves a Tony for this role! 

HollandReader
HollandReader

Ms Light's performances on Ugly Betty and L&O really do want to make you forgive her for Who's the Boss?

Jonster
Jonster

Stockard Channing and Judith Light are two of my most favorite actors.  Thanks for the review.  It's time I saw something besides a musical.

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

Sounds like Albee Lite.

Vim
Vim

It's very Albee meets Lillian Hellman meets Tennessee Wms meets August: Osage County but pretty good.

Barkley
Barkley

Didn't Baitz produce & write "Brothers & Sisters"?  The first few shows at least?

Percy
Percy

Sonds absolutely mahvelous dahling, clink-clink.

Sanguine
Sanguine

Civilized theater about barbaric people? I'm there!

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