BWW Reviews: OTHER DESERT CITIES Comes to the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City
Known for producing high-quality shows for their Mainstage and the Jerome Stage, the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, MO. raised the bar on opening night Saturday March 8 of Other Desert Cities by Robin Baitz. The Broadway play received a 2012 Tony Award Nomination for Best Play and if the Tony's were given in Kansas City there would need to be two for best actor, three for best actress, one for best direction, and one for best production of a drama.
Sidonie Garrett directs this dramatic representation of a daughter who returns home to her parents in Palm Springs for the holiday season. Waiting there is her mom a socialite, her dad a former ambassador, her aunt who lives with the parents and is trying to overcome addictions and her brother who produces a television show. When she announces that, she has completed her second book, a memoir of the family and her brother that committed suicide the holiday festivities get set aside. Garrett enlists a highly talented cast and made them into a family, no matter how dysfunctional they appeared.
Cinnamon Shultz plays Brooke Wyeth the daughter who is returning after six years of rehab and living on her own. She shows very good comedic timing with her body language and facial expressions. In the beginning, the play develops with numerous laughs, but as the plot unfolds, the laughs diminish and the intensity of the story begin to reach new heights. Her strong powerful performance continues to strengthen through her reactions, actions, and dialogue until it finally hits a climax as she breaks down crying in the second act.
Polly Wyeth, played by Merle Moores, is the headstrong matriarch who seems to be more concerned of the family image that of the family itself. Moores is fantastic in the role as she pleads, argues, and screams at Brooke and her sister. Her performance is so dynamic it makes the audience feel as if they are part of the upper crust of society and not just watching a show.
Jim Korinke portrays Lyman Wyeth the father of this dysfunctional family. Korinke's performance grows and strengthens as the show continues. As he enters the stage and the second act progresses the pain in his face, voice, and actions are evident. In the first act, he is the strong father figure trying to keep the family together and in the second act, he superbly plays a beaten man, pleading for mercy.
Silda Grauman, outstandingly played by Jan Rogge, is the sister of Polly who lives in the house with her and Lyman. A once respected television writer she has sunk to the depths of society, all the while fighting over-indulgence of alcohol. Rogge does such a great job that in the first act, we feel sorry for her and in the second act, she draws the audience into her vengeance.
Jake Walker plays Trip Wyeth; the brother attempting to stay neutral, yet at the same time tries to show everyone the error of his or her ways. Walker gives an energetic and commanding performance as he tries to keep the family together.
Other Desert Cities continues at the Unicorn Theatre through March 30. Purchase tickets at the Unicorn Theatre website or call the box office at 816-531-7529.