There has been a trend on Broadway with plays that have a family gathering and secrets unfold. They all seem to do well with the Tony Awards and two recent plays are on their way to become movies.
After a short run on Broadway, winning Tony Awards and becoming a Pulitzer Prize finalist, I finally was able to catch "Other Desert Cities" when it made its regional theatre debut this past weekend at TheatreWorks. Maybe partly because it's not my secrets or my family, but I loved it.
We are welcomed into the Wyeth home the minute we enter the theatre. My friend who accompanied me wanted to re-do her living room in the same 1970s retro look - which actually is the perfect Christmas setting for a family of former actors and writers. You can tell by the very furniture that the Wyeth's are well off even though their furnishings might be a tad outdated. Whether it's modern retro or just well maintained old, it doesn't matter to the Wyeth's who have better things to do than keep up with design trends.
Enter daughter Brooke who moved to New York and brought with her to the family holiday drafts of her new novel. Tension starts to brew when it turns out it's not fiction, but actually a memoir about her brother Henry - who never seems to be talked about. Until now.
We all have skeletons and secrets and some of them should stay sealed. But writer Jon Robin Baitz lets his characters and audience wait long enough that we are compelled to know the story of the seldom-mentioned brother. Baitz does an amazing job first just piquing our curiosity but by the second act, we - along with others in the cast who have been kept in the dark - are seeping with an interest to learn the story of Henry.
All of the tense excitement can be accredited not only to the brilliant writing, but the perfect ensemble cast. Whether it's the parents James Sutorius and Kandis Chappell, the reality TV producing brother Rod Brogan or the alcoholic quick witted aunt Julia Brothers, they all excel and have great chemistry with lead Kate Turnbull, who runs the gamut of emotions and all on her sleeve.
Director Richard Seer keeps it tight and keeps it moving, utilizing all aspects of the amazing sets of Tony nominee Alexander Dodge. The sets apparently were such a hit they were transferred to the Bay Area from the show's run in San Diego.
It's seldom you can benefit the rewards of real team work. But "Other Desert Cities" is a detour worth taking.
"Other Desert Cities" plays at TheatreWorks' Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts through Sept. 15. Get more information at www.theatreworks.org.