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Virginia Repertory Theatre Other Desert Cities

By • Apr 29th, 2014 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Other Desert Cities
Virginia Repertory Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – November Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through May 18th
2:30 with intermission
$23-$46
Reviewed April 26th, 2014

It is hard to find fault with the script of a play that was nominated for Pulitzer and Tony Awards; yet that is just the situation I find myself in with Other Desert Cities. The script is talky, often contrived and predictable, frequently does not sound like natural conversations and is very preachy in its anti-Republican slant. However, strong performances by a flawless cast help breathe life into the current Virginia Rep production.

Brooke Wyeth (Sandi Carroll) returns to her conservative Republican parents’ Palm Springs home for Christmas, 2004. She has just finished writing a tell-all memoir about the death of her brother back in the 70′s, but has not yet sprung it on her parents; former actor Lyman (Joe Inscoe) and former Hollywood writer Polly (Irene Ziegler). The pair represent the old guard Hollywood Republicans who travel in social circles with the likes of Ron and Nancy Reagan, and playwright Jon Robin Baitz takes every opportunity to blame every problem in the last 40 years on the Republicans — from the Vietnam War to current wars in “other desert cities.” Also present are her other brother Trip (Mike Long) who is producing a cheesy TV courtroom show and recovering alcoholic aunt Silda (Melissa Johnston Price).

Much of the conflict is presented through divergent truths and differing accounts of past family history. The cast gels as a family being torn apart. Their casual conversations (sans some awkwardly written dialogue) are just as believable as are the angry outbursts in a typical family dynamic. The most captivating and heartfelt moments are the dramatic ones, except for Long, who is more effective in the light-hearted moments. Johnston Price is strong in both modes, in a role that plays perfectly to her laid back earthy talents.

Ben Burke’s set is both functional and eye-popping as the Wyeth’s living room that has been frozen in time in the desert and looks as if it came from a ’70′s Andy Williams Christmas special. Lynne M. Hartman’s lights add nice touches, especially in lighting a desert mountain backdrop and reflections from an unseen swimming pool. With the cast not miked in the large November Theatre it does get difficult at times to hear some pieces of the dialogue, especially when actors turn partially upstage.

Under the direction of Chase Kniffen, the cast makes Other Desert Cities a theatrical oasis of dramatic performances you don’t want to miss.

Photo Gallery

Joe Inscoe, Irene Ziegler Mike Long, Melissa Johnston Price
Joe Inscoe, Irene Ziegler
Mike Long, Melissa Johnston Price
Irene Ziegler, Melissa Johnston Price, Sandi Carroll, Mike Long, Joe Inscoe Irene Ziegler, Joe Inscoe, Sandi Carroll
Irene Ziegler, Melissa Johnston Price, Sandi Carroll, Mike Long, Joe Inscoe
Irene Ziegler, Joe Inscoe, Sandi Carroll
Melissa Johnston Price, Sandi Carroll Mike Long, Sandi Carroll
Melissa Johnston Price, Sandi Carroll
Mike Long, Sandi Carroll
Joe Inscoe, Irene Ziegler Irene Ziegler, Sandi Carroll, Joe Inscoe
Joe Inscoe, Irene Ziegler
Irene Ziegler, Sandi Carroll, Joe Inscoe

Photos by Aaron Sutten

The Cast

  • Polly Wyeth: Irene Ziegler
  • Brooke Wyeth: Sandi Carroll
  • Lyman Wyeth: Joe Inscoe
  • Trip Wyeth: Mike Long
  • Silda Grauman: Melissa Johnston Price

The Crew

  • Director: Chase Kniffen
  • Stage Manager: Wendy Vandergrift
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Luke Robinson
  • Set Designer: Ben Burke
  • Lighting Design: Lynne M Hartman
  • Costume Design: Sarah Grady
  • Light Board Operator: Linwood Guyton
  • Cover art: Robert Meganck

Disclaimer: Virginia Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/10076.

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