“Other Desert Cities” will make you laugh, then cry

By Khea Pollard

The Old Globe Theater welcomed “Other Desert Cities” to its ranks of performances on Sunday, April 27th. “Other Desert Cities” is a comedic tragedy focused on the familial conflict of the Wyeth’s. The oldest daughter Brooke, (Dana Green), a blossoming author and her younger brother Trip, (Andy Bean) a producer of a hit television show, have come to visit their parents in Palm Springs, Calif. for the Christmas holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Brooke is on the verge of releasing a memoir about her late brother Henry who committed suicide after being implicated in the bombing of a building where a life was lost. If released, Brooke’s memoir would drudge up the family’s painful past and potentially cripple their reputation. Will she publish the memoir anyhow? The drama commences in perfect timing for the holidays.

The set was simple and clean without flaunting dramatic lighting or set changes. All the action took place in the family’s living room which compelled the audience to focus on the interpersonal relationships between characters rather than the exterior world.

The actors portrayed the characters with such depth of emotion that they came to life in vibrant color. Specifically, Dana Green’s ability to seamlessly alternate between brilliant comedic timing and dramatic action was phenomenal. Brooke suffered a deep depression following Henry’s suicide and Green was able to capture both the instability of her past while connecting it with her present while still maintaining the wittiness of the character.

Kandis Chappell, who plays Polly Wyeth the matriarch and socialite of the family, puts on a superb performance. Chappell embodied this character, portraying her as both a loveable and flawed human being, the object of both the audience’s sympathy and disgust. As an archetypal Republican, Polly is set in her ways, functioning as a foil to her free spirited liberal son and daughter. Polly’s husband Lyman, (Robert Frostworth), while slightly more easygoing than she, is an ex-film star and retired politician. Lyman is most concerned with preserving the family’s image, even at the expense of shirking Brooke’s inner turmoil.

Silda is a comedic contrast to the rigid character of Polly, her sister.

“Palm Springs is like King Tut’s tomb,” Silda said. “It’s filled with mummies with tans.”

Though Silda shouldered the bulk of clever one-liners, Polly followed a close second.

“It’s all or nothing with your generation,” Polly said. “It’s either vegan or meth-head”.

These comical quips softened the blow of melodramatic scenes without detracting from their profound meaning.

From the outside, the family appears to have it all. It is within their intimate moments with one another that the audience gets to see this picturesque family struggle with complex issues just as our own families might. This family dynamic raised larger questions regarding ‘the road not taken’.

“Other Desert Cities” is a metaphor for the many possibilities before us. What could happen if we decided to travel to explore these roads. The unexpected twist at the tail end of the story was most perplexing. The melodrama was definitely at a ten.

Perhaps these are real people. If art imitates life this family is certainly comparable to our own families in one aspect or another. “Other Desert Cities” plays through June 2 at Old Globe Theatre’s Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in Balboa Park.