Thursday October 19th 2017

“Other Desert Cities”

other3Highly Recommended**** The Goodman Theatre is one of the first to be able to present Jon Robert Baitt’z Broadway hit “Other Desert Cities” ( just another feather in an hat that is chock full) on its Albert Stage. This is an exhilarating story about a family that is filled with political secrets smoothly directed by  Henry Wishcamper on a marvelous set ( designed by Thomas Lynch that anyone would want to move in to tomorrow). The story takes place in  in 2004 in Palm Springs,California during the Christmas holidays. The family has gathered for the holidays, at least what remains of this family.The father, Lyman Wyeth ( superbly played by Chelcie Ross) was a famed actor who then got involved in the world of politics;  Mother, Polly ( a remarkable portrayal by Chicago favorite Deanna Dunnagun), brother,Trip ( smartly handled by John Hoogenakker),,Aunt Silda ( deftly handled by Linda Kimbrough, who brings her great comic timing to this roles) and Brooke, the daughter (Tracy Michelle Arnold) who this story is really about.

Brooke is an author who lives in New York and has written a manuscript which she has brought with her. The manuscript is about another brother, her older brother Henry, and his involvement in the anti-war movement where he lost his life by a bomb, which it appeared was self inflicted as a protest where he took his own life. Over the years, the shame caused to the Wyeth family has somewhat dissipated, and now it appears with this novel, what Brooke calls a “memoir” will not only re-open these wounds, but in fact , destroy what remains of a family.. Brooke, after her brothers situation became depressed and was institutionalized. Aunt  Silda, a former screenwriter, who became an addict to alcohol and drugs lives with her sister Polly after her re-hab program and younger brother Trip, who produces a zany television show appears to be the only sane on in the crowd.

As we learn more about each of these characters and their relationship and what this “memoir” will do to the family, we also learn of some twists and turns that took place during that period of time, political and actual. Baitz has  planted some “secrets” in the family history that will have  a great impact on each of the players, most importantly Brooke and her story, which is about to be published and excerpted in a national magazine. The outcome is tricky , but well played and as the play closes, we are in the year  2010 and what you learn will surprise you to no end.

This is a story filled with twists and turns, comical moments and some serious moments where we see a family that appears loving and caring fall apart at the seams. The action moves quickly during this 2 hours and 20 minutes, never seeming to drag. I will say that the only negative is that the elaborate set may have been the reason for the sound not to carry as well as most productions in The Albert. At first, I thought it might be me, but others had the same problem in the first scene understanding some of the dialogue. David  Landers’ lighting worked well and the music ( Richard Woodbury) added a nice touch. With the excepetion of the opening scene and the sound being lost, this is a wonderful story and told to perfection by a strong cast under even stronger direction. Each audience member will no doubt walk away with a different feling from the story. We all have families and in each there may be little secrets as well.

“Other Desert Cities” will continue at The Goodman through February 17th with performances as follows:    other

Tuesdays ( Feb.5th and 12th) at 7:30 p.m.,Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 2 p.m. ( except 2/14) and at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at  2 p.m. ( in February) and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. ( except 2/10) and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $25-$86 and are available at the box office located at 170 N. Dearborn, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

Students- don’t forget about the “10TIX” program. Each day at 10 a.m. ( Online)there are ten tickets available for students at $10 each or if available at the box office after 12 noon.  Valid student ID’s must be presented and a max of 4 tickets can be purchased.

If you are driving to the Goodman, discounted parking is available at  the parking lot on Lake Street, just west of Dearborn ( not the lot on Dearborn) which can also be entered on Clark Street, between Randolph and Lake.

to see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com , go to review round-up and click “Other desert Cities”

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