BWW Reviews: The Rep's Revealing Production of OTHER DESERT CITIES
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz has crafted an engaging an entertaining dramatic work with his play, Other Desert Cities. This isn't your typical "coming home for the holidays" type of story, and the emotional toll that it takes on its characters resonates. The fact is, the details of the plot would probably ring true for any number of families who have had their life revealed in print by one or more of their offspring. It's the kind of tale that requires an excellent ensemble to truly bring it to life, and happily, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has assembled a superb one.
Brooke is a novelist working through depression who writes a revealing memoir about her family. She visits them on Christmas Eve 2004, insisting that they all read it. Keep in mind that her parents are both staunch Republican conservatives, while she herself leans to the left. They're used to a certain life and lifestyle, and they don't want the applecart upset by the facts Brooke chooses to delve into. But, what's really going on here? The truth is, you have a group of people whose view of the world is skewed in one direction or another by their personal beliefs. And, as we all know: oil and water don't mix.
Celeste Ciulla does strong work as Brooke, suffering with her illness, but determined to forge ahead with this telling memoir, despite the collateral damage that may occur. Her parents Lyman (a terrific Anderson Matthews) and Polly (the always reliable Dee Hoty) represent an Establishment that Brooke never wanted to be part of, and though both plead with her to reconsider, Brooke remains firm with her decision to publish. Glynis Bell is also quite good as Aunt Silda, who knows more than she lets on, and Alex Hanna is solid as Trip, Brooke's brother, who seems more like her polar opposite.
Steven Woolf's direction is well executed, and he seems to have a real knack for these kind of intricate relationship dramas. Michael Ganio's scenic design is gorgeous, and it's all well lit by Phil Monet. David Kay Mickelson's costuming clearly delineates each character
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has, once again, produced brilliant theatre that demands to be seen. Check out their production of Other Desert Cities on the mainstage of the Loretto-Hilton through March 9, 2014.