"Other Desert Cities" (Goodman Theatre): Family Drama Hollywood-style

"Other Desert Cities" (Goodman Theatre):  Family Drama Hollywood-style

Goodman Theatre presents OTHER DESERT CITIES.  The Wyeth family is gathering for the holidays.  Dad is a famous movie star.  Mom and Aunt Silda are successful screenwriters.  Brother produces reality shows.  And sister has finally found her own creative niche.  Brooke has written a tell-all book about her family.  Although the process has been cathartic for her, the book threatens to destroy the family.  Has the past passed? Are some secrets more secret than others? OTHER DESERT CITIES is family drama Hollywood-style.

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz wrote a story about the underbelly of the rich and famous. Baitz’s dialogue is witty.  And the cast delivers it with relish.  The plot is familiar, discontent daughter blames parents for childhood trauma. Baitz tries to convince us that exposing the family secret could have irreversible damage.   Maybe?  Maybe not!  Would a real family have allowed this secret to evolve into this point of tabloid-inspired mischief? Even though they are the product of Hollywood, the family’s drama feels forced.  It’s like they are scripted…which of course, they are.  It’s similar to watching a reality show about family conflict that has been edited to heighten the angst.  And because of this, the play entertains for its slick and stylish theatrics despite some muffled audio.

Under the direction of Henry Wishcamper, this family slings dirt like polished sophisticates.  Deanna Dunagan rules the family and the stage.  She channels Dynasty’s Alexis Colby.  Dunagan wears a beautiful blue, flowing diva-garb (costume designer Kaye Voyce).   She is in control with precise and affected diction.  Her husband, an endearing Chelcie Ross (Lyman) has multiple peaks of emotional duress.  Ross‘ distinct voice, known from his “Mad Men” Conrad Hilton stint, draws me in.  I’m immediately on Dunagan and Ross’ side making an intenseTracy Michelle Arnold (Brooke) an unsympathetic character.

In this chic modernism living room designed by Thomas Lynch, I just want to  enjoy the holidays with this quip-slamming, classy family... especially John Hoogenakker (Trip).  Hoogenakker delivers repeated one liners of pure hilarity.  His laid back stance on family matters is light-hearted charming.

OTHER DESERT CITIES is the place for a family feud to play out the final round.  In particular, I loved the epilogue.

Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn

Written by Jon Robin Baitz

Directed by Henry Wishcamper

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 7:30pm

Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm

Thru February 17th

Buy Tickets at www.goodmantheatre.org

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