BWW Reviews: The Hampton Theatre Company's OTHER DESERT CITIES
Jon Robin Baitz' Other Desert Cities shows a realistic example of how families are nowadays. Dysfunction, love, and the influence family members have on one another are performed with panache at the Hampton Theatre Company's Sarah Hunnewell directed presentation of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominee. Running through November 10th at the charming Long Island venue in Quogue, each member of the cast was great in their respective roles.
Diana Marbury, the Company's Artistic Director, portrays Polly Wyeth, the matriarch of the prominent Californian family. She is a former Hollywood screenwriter turned politician's wife who is indeed a woman of strength and courage. At the same time, she can also be cold and is deeply devoted to the preservation of her family's name even to the point having an extremely harsh conversation with her daughter.
Morgan Vaughan wonderfully portrays daughter Brooke Wyeth. She is a book writer living in Sag Harbor, Long Island, who recently recovered from a nervous breakdown. One thing that got her through her depression was her writing and what resulted was a fiery memoir - not initially what she was going for - highlighting a tragic family event. This is the main focus of the play. She returned after six years to seek her parents' blessing for the book's publication but that, of course, proves to be a challenge. The portrayal of Brooke could have probably been more frazzled and "on-edge" but Ms. Vaughan gave a wonderful performance overall.
Also among the talented cast was Craig Braun as Lyman who is the patriarch of the Wyeth family. Lyman's name is a recognizable one having been a Hollywood "B" actor. He turned to politics but still today has some celebrity and political influence. He tries to keep neutral as Brooke fights with her mother about the tell-all but he's torn and tries to keep the peace especially it being around the Christmas holidays. Mr. Braun portrayed the many sides of Lyman well also highlighting the love and care he has for his adult children.
Polly and Lyman's youngest, Trip, portrayed by Ian Bell, is also in the entertainment industry. Mr. Bell portrayed Trip comically putting a sarcastic-laid back spin on the role.
Additionally, Vay David portrayed Silda Grauman, Polly's recovering alcoholic sister. Silda and Polly were a writing duo for Television back in the day so Silda was very bohemian and artsy yet irresponsible and fragile. She realizes very reluctantly that she is dependent on Polly and Lyman so she lives at their home.
Also a highlight was the interesting set designed by Sean Marbury making great use of the small space. Set in the Wyeth's living room, the half circle backdrop was divided into fifths. The first and fifth panels - closest to the audience on stage left and right- were filled with pictures and knickknacks for the living room décor. The second and fourth panels were, in essence, a large bay window looking over the beautiful landscape of California. Then the third panel - the one in the middle - was a fireplace. However, it seemed awkwardly placed and you sort of had to do a double take because it all blended together. Perhaps bringing the fireplace up a little bit - or eliminating it - would have been more effective. It was definitely a well done set, but that part just seemed out of place.
All in all, the Hampton Theatre Company certainly has another hit on its hands with Other Desert Cities. A realistic story, wonderful cast, and great direction make for a wonderful night of theatre.
Other Desert Cities is presented by the Hampton Theatre Company of Quogue, Long Island. By Jon Robin Baitz, Direction and Sound Design by Sarah Hunnewell, Set Design by Sean Marbury, Set Décor Diana Marbury, Lighting Design by Sebastian Paczynski, Costume Design by Teresa Lebrun, Stage Management by John Zaleski and Jean Plitt.