Secrets! Every family has them! In Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities” it is not ordinary secrets or “skeletons in the closet” that are what we are presented, but in fact some very strong mysteries that the Wyeth family has lived with for many years. This taut little drama, now on the very intimate stage of Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, is one that will grab you and tug at your heartstrings. Smoothly directed by Mark Lococo, on a wonderful set (Eric Luchen has outdone himself with this very realistic living space), we meet a family that has gathered together for the Christmas Holiday. We are in the Palm Springs home of Lyman and Polly Wyeth, sort of retired actors. Home for the holidays are son, Trip (ably played by Andrew Wieland) and daughter Brooke (a dynamic performance by Whitney Morse).
As the play begins, we meet this family as they have just completed playing some tennis and are preparing to go out for breakfast. They are talking about the holidays and seem to be a very happy and normal family. Lyman (deftly handled by Geoff Isaac) was an actor who became an ambassador. His wife, Polly (Ellen Phelps) was also in the business along with her sister Silda (solidly played by Judy Lea Steele), who is now residing with them after coming off rehab for an alcohol problem. The kids, Brooke, an author and Trip , a television show producer, seem to be normal in every way. In fact, this family appears to be an average family, one that might just be your next door neighbor.
We soon learn that there is more to the story, and in fact, Brooke and Trip had a sibling, a brother ,Henry. A great deal of the mystery that is contained in this story is in fact relative to the brother and what changed all their lives on that fateful day, many years past. Not wanting to be a spoiler, I will not divulge any of the tense mystery that earned Baitz a Pulitzer. I will tell you that this production is certainly worth the trip to Lake Forest. This small theater allows us to feel as if we are in the room and could easily reach out and touch this family, one who needs to find honesty between themselves. There are clues written into this story and one needs to pay close attention to see where they lead.
This is two hours and fifteen minutes of drama with some comic touches (of particular note , Ms Steele’s Silda) and a story line that will not allow you to drift off. You will find yourself engrossed in the action from start to finish and after it all comes out, you will feel better about your own life. This is a well acted, well staged production and shows why a company such as Citadel attracts audiences. Even on the coldest night of the year there was a sizeable audience who enjoyed a solid production.
“Other Desert Cities” (the name is derived from a highway sign East of LA pointing to “Other Desert Cities”, a remark that Brooke makes about wondering what would happen if they took that fork instead of the one they did), will continue through March 15th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Wednesday mornings 2/25 and 3/4 at 11 a.m.
Tickets range from $35-$37.50 and are available by calling 847-735-8554 or online at www.citadeltheatre.org
The theater is located at 300 S. Waukegan Road in Lake Forest with plenty of free parking. The building is south of Route 60 and North of Route 22/Half Day Road on the West side of the road.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Other Desert Cities”