BWW Reviews: OTHER DESERT CITIES Brings Exciting Drama to Downtown Raleigh

June 30
7:01 AM 2014

Currently playing at Theatre Raleigh's Hot Summer Nights, Other Desert Cities, by playwright John Robin Baitz, is the tumultuous story of the Wyeth family. Brooke Wyeth and younger brother Trip are both visiting their parents Polly and Lyman in Palm Springs, California for Christmas. Brooke has just finished writing a book about a tragic event in the family's past having to do with her older brother Henry. The book brings up a lot of tension and, of course, drama for the family. Differing political views add a layer to the story that rings very true for many American families. Adding another dimension to the family drama is Polly's sister Silda, who is staying at the family home after just finishing a stint in rehab.

Pamela Dunlap's Silda and Charlie Brady's Trip are absolutely worth the price of admission. Those two actors have found a great sense of character and truly bring Silda and Trip to life. Dunlap, who you may recognize from TV's Mad Men, is the rock of the show, bringing an extremely high caliber of acting chops which just can't be matched by the other actors in the cast. Dana Marks's Brooke has a high level of energy throughout the show, which doesn't match her character - Marks doesn't seem able to completely lose herself in the role. She's at her best in the show's final scene, when she seems noticeably more natural. Maggie Rasnick and Mark Phialas are fine as family matriarch and patriarch Polly and Lyman, though their acting just doesn't have the polish that Brady and especially Dunlap demonstrate. All in all, the five have noticeable family chemistry onstage.

Other Desert Cities is a laudable effort for director Jesse Gephart. Though the pace of the show has a few kinks to work out, the overall effect is enjoyable. It is clear that Gephart has a distinct vision for portraying the Wyeths. The set by Chris Bernier is well-designed and works very well for the show. All these elements come together to tell a story that will keep you on your toes right through the very end.

Other Desert Cities runs through June 29. For tickets and more information, visit www.theatreraleigh.com.

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