BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.

BWW-Reviews-The-Denver-Center-presents-a-riveting-family-drama-with-OTHER-DESERT-CITIES-20010101

Jon Robin Baitz's Tony Award-nominated play, OTHER DESERT CITIES, plays The Space Theatre now through April 28th at the Denver Center. When a daughter returns to Palm Springs for a Christmas gathering after writing a tell-all book about a family secret, parents and family suddenly scramble with an issue they'd rather not discuss. Secrets and lies unravel making each character more complex-and human.

This riveting show dissecting the family dynamic into a refreshingly real portrayal and built great intensity and complex layers that kept the audience on the edge of their seat. This "in your face" drama is an exploration in deflection and denial, coping mechanisms, confrontation and ultimately the process of healing. The production covered quite a range of sensitive topics (money, relationships, politics, war, depression, loss, drugs, fear, suicide, and aging) that added to the building family that was destined to implode. Act Two was all about confessions, confrontation and a shocking ending that left the audience's head reeling. The true question and underlying theme is - when the blinding truth comes out in a family, how do you deal? Just remember that actions always have consequences.
Lauren Klein's performance as the domineering matriarch, Polly Wyeth was absolutely extraordinary. She commanded the stage every time she entered and her smoky voice just grew you in. She showed amazing conflict, temperament, and range in this challenging role. Mike Hartman was the perfect compliment to Lauren as Lyman Wyeth. His performance was a bit more subdued and tender than his aggressive wife, but the passion was greatly apparent. Mike and Lauren were the perfect couple and worked so well together. Their shocking confession at the end of the show left everyone's head spinning and was an enticing climax. Kathleen McCall's performance as Brooke can be summed up into one word - WOW. She owed the stage from beginning to end and was simply captivating to watch. Kathleen confronting the family in Act Two and taking a stand for herself was truly master class. Playing along a cast of company veterans, John Patrick Hayden was impressive in his Denver Center debut as Brooke's brother, Trip. His sarcastic and playful performance was fun and light and he gave great depth to his character. Tracy Shaffer as Polly's charismatic sister, Silda Grauman was a welcomed whirlwind of amusement. Her range from comic relief to reflective empathy was spot on and you just fell in love with her character and performance.
James Kronze's set design was so realistic, that you just wanted to move right in and settle down for a cozy Christmas. I loved his attention to detail from the woodwork beams reaching for the ceiling to the dominant fireplace that rose the top of the theater. The comfy furniture and the inset living room was also a nice touch adding variety and depth. Lighting designer York Kennedy brought such variety to this show with his lighting and the fabulous installations that I wanted to put into my house. Director Kent Thompson took this sensitive play and was able to keep things fresh, real and complex without spiraling into melodrama. While the blocking seemed a little stilted at times, the flow was still there and he cast extraordinary actors for these complex roles that made this quite a memorable production all about the family dynamic.
In light of recent events and tragedies, this expertly acted and crafted play is more pertinent and timely than ever and should not be missed. An engaging story of dark family secrets and opposing political views, OTHER DESERT CITIES, plays The Space Theatre now until April 28th. Tickets may be purchased now, by calling 303.893.4100 or visiting www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer M Koskinen

high res photos

BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Mike Hartman as Lyman Wyeth, Kathleen McCall as Brooke Wyeth, and Lauren Klein as Polly Wyeth

BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Tracy Shaffer as Silda Grauman

BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Kathleen McCall as Brooke Wyeth and Mike Hartman as Lyman Wyeth

BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Lauren Klein as Polly Wyeth

BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Riveting Family Intensity with OTHER DESERT CITIES.
Kathleen McCall as Brooke Wyeth and John Patrick Hayden as Trip Wyeth

high res photos


Related Articles

Denver THEATER Stories | Shows  Follow BWW Denver


From This Author Michael Mulhern