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'Other Desert Cities' (review): Family, Politics and Top-Notch Drama

(Left to Right) Elizabeth Bunch as Brooke Wyeth and Linda Thorson as Polly Wyeth in the Alley Theatre’s production of Other Desert Cities. Other Desert Cities runs January 10 – February 2 on the Hubbard Stage.
(Left to Right) Elizabeth Bunch as Brooke Wyeth and Linda Thorson as Polly Wyeth in the Alley Theatre’s production of Other Desert Cities. Other Desert Cities runs January 10 – February 2 on the Hubbard Stage.
Photo by John Everett.

On the surface just another dysfunctional family drama yet at the heart, a story that will make you question the truth you know about everything you believe. Jon Robin Baitz's critically acclaimed “Other Desert Cities” tells the story of a family on the verge of a dark secret being exposed by a misguided daughter.

Current playing at the Alley Theater and running until February 2, don't miss your chance to see this play. A small cast consisting of five talented actors and actresses make this story come to life on the Houston stage. This play tells the story of the Wyeth family, which is troubled by the believed suicide of their son, Henry Wyeth, an antiwar activities following a deadly bombing.

The play opens on mother, Polly (Linda Thorson), father, Lyman (Richard Bekins), son, Trip (Alex Hurt), and daughter, Brooke (Elizabeth Bunch). From the setting we see it is the holidays, with a decorated Christmas tree in the background and Brooke has recently arrived home after years of being away. The family is very well to do as they discuss tennis play and dinner at the country club. Audiences immediately see the dynamics that are live in this very political, hostile family. It appears merely on the surface they are a family unit, yet any shaking of their foundation and it all might come crumbling down.

Quickly we see what will propel this family towards breaking or finally coming clean, Brooke, who has written her second novel. She reveals to her brother that it is the story of their late brother Henry, in her eyes it is the truth finally coming out. Bunch gives a moving performance throughout this play and draws the audience in as we see not only her but the rest of the entire cast struggle with what is right for the outcome of this novel. Bunch and Thorson set the standard for which the rest of the cast must fall in line with, being very strong female leads and delivering performances out of powerful human emotions.

Suddenly as we are thrust into the heart of this play, discovering what is the truth, what to do with that truth and how will any of the characters live with the truth once it is revealed. As the play continues, we are introduced to Silda Grauman (Audrie Neenan) who is the struggling alcoholic sister of Polly. Neenan almost steals the show with her delivery of Silda with her harsh, in your face attitude and witty sarcasm. Like both of their children, Silda does not seem to share the political beliefs that are expressed by her sister and brother in law.

Polly and her husband both are Hollywood alumni yet have since stepped away from that spotlight, into a completely different one altogether, that of politics. Both appear to hold very strong, almost religious beliefs in their republican platform. Politics and belief are both overpowering themes of this play that appear to guide choices of each character although in very different ways.

As the play builds to its final, climatic emotional ending, the truth of the past is finally revealed. Brooke has allowed the other family members to read her book and despite their negative reactions, she stands strong and feels that truth needs to be heard for her brother. Audiences will be on the edge of their seats and the verge of tears, as the actors put their emotions on display. Once we learn the truth, along with the characters, all we can do is to sit and question all that we have just seen. Is this a story of family? Is it a story of politics? Is it a story of loyalty? Can anyone be the same after going through so much?

All these questions and more will be asked and answered, by "Other Desert Cities". Be sure to not miss your chance to see this play before the final current closes in Houston on February 2nd. For ticket information visit, the Alley Theater, 615 Texas, or call 713-220-5700. Discover for yourself the emotions, drama and family dysfunction that this play has to offer.

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