Running since October 2011 Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach play the matriarch and patriarch of a conservative American family facing its complex past in a drama the NY Times called "the most richly enjoyable new play in many a season." Closes June 17th.
The Broadway production of Other Desert Cities closed June 17, 2012. For current Broadway show listings and tickets, please click here.
According to press notes, the play deals with a once-promising novelist who "returns home to Palm Springs after a six year absence to celebrate Christmas with her parents, her brother, and her aunt, and announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family's history - a wound they don't want reopened."
"Other Desert Cities" was very well-received when it opened at Lincoln Center Theater's Off-Broadway venue early in 2011, and Tony-winner Stockard Channing received raves for her portrayal of a Reaganite Republican in denial. Joining Ms. Channing in the Broadway production are Stacy Keach and Matthew Risch as father and son, Drama Desk nominee Elizabeth Marvel as the young writer, and Tony-winner Judith Light as the acerbic, alcoholic aunt.
Joe Mantello, the Tony-winning director of "Wicked," directed the Broadway production, as he did Off-Broadway. Here is a video montage from the Off-Broadway production:
What's Lincoln Center Theater? One of the largest and most prominent non-profit theaters in the city, LCT has two state-of-the-art venues at Lincoln Center, and occasionally produces shows in the theater district proper. On rare occasions the fare is controversial, but as a matter of course, it's the best-regarded theatrical producing organization in the city. More here.
When Baitz's "Other Desert Cities" opened Off-Broadway, it was like an oasis during a typically dry spell in the theater season; and it was only a matter of time before it came to Broadway. The production features two new actors in key roles and that just gives audiences another excuse to return to one of the best new plays of the decade. All the dramatic pieces come together splendidly in this powerful and unexpectedly compassionate work. Make no mistake, this is a drama but Baitz is equally adept at humor. "Other Desert Cities" has audiences thoroughly engaged, whether through laughter or tears. It's not entirely flawless, but under Joe Mantello's expert direction, theater lovers should still find "Desert Cities" a prime destination.
The script crackles with life and so do the performances. Three of the five original cast members (Channing, Keach and Sadoski) return and two newcomers (Griffiths and Light) more than pull their weight, all under the direction of Joe Mantello, who has kept the humor and intensity flowing despite the cast changes. After setting up [the] premise - one that could easily become a cartoonish clash between strident left and uptight right - Baitz thankfully swerves his work into subtle territory. Despite a cast that runs like an Italian sports car, the real star is the script. Baitz's exploration of reinvention and the value of art wouldn't be nearly as much fun without his artful dialogue.
"Other Desert Cities," has not, as far as I could tell, changed a word of dialogue from its sold-out off-Broadway run. But the balance, the dynamic between characters, in Baitz's imperfect but vibrant and compelling play, made it different from the first time I saw it. The dramatic devices are a bit time-worn, but they work. The overall result is that the play, very smartly directed, again, by Joe Mantello, is in better proportion, with the comedy no longer dominating the drama. The one thing that comes across with great power in both productions of this play for grown-ups is the sense of a dilemma that few of us can escape: How do we balance what we need with what we owe those who are closest to us?
Baitz has few peers at worming his way into the warp of intimate family relationships, doling out exquisitely crafted lines meant to cause as much injury as possible. Dark secrets unfurl in waves, eventually beaching the play with one Big Reveal too many. Even as skilled a director (and frequent Baitz collaborator) as Joe Mantello can't keep the thing from sinking in implausibility. Still, as an unflinching album of people intricately entwined, "Other Desert Cities" is indelible.
New York Daily News
This astutely drawn and deliciously performed play is as juicy and surprising as ever. Baitz has a knack for family dynamics. In this work, his first on Broadway, he layers in politics and Hollywood for texture and combustion. Like a good popcorn movie, "Desert" holds you rapt and keeps you guessing to the end, although, admittedly, you may have questions about some of the logic. But there's no question about Joe Mantello's superb direction. It makes every moment sing.
New York Magazine
"Other Desert Cities" has now ripened admirably on Broadway. Power, passion, and superbly crafted palaver stippled with blowdarts of wit-this is what Baitz does best. He's written his favorite sort of story, a simple tale of parents and children and blame … in which the legacy of the Old American Century and the unsteady prospect of a new one just happen to be at stake. The family secrets aren't perhaps quite as shocking as Baitz wants them to be, but the bravura verbal contretemps this round-robin truthletting spawns is nothing short of dazzling.
New York Post
The show starts off as a corrosive dark comedy about a tumultuous Christmas reunion...But then Baitz reveals a series of game-changers. This [first] part is a very good, if conventional, family dramedy, enlivened by Mantello's fluid direction and superb acting. Suddenly, the play opens up. a sunny character reveals a hidden malaise; a lot more interesting is that others reveal selfless generosity. This is rich territory, but Baitz doesn't clobber us with messages or psychobabble. He just makes spending time with these messed-up, complicated people a genuine pleasure.
New York Times
"Cities," directed with a masterly combination of shadow and shimmer by Joe Mantello, emerges as stronger, more sincere and more credible in its Broadway reincarnation. [The play] is now less of a showoff than it was, and its ensemble more of a piece. It has, in other words, settled comfortably into its own skin, which makes its characters' discomfort all the more palpable. Mr. Baitz is looking deeper and more clearly into Mom and Dad than he [has] before. He's not just giving the devils their due; he's also suggesting that they may not be all that satanic. Ms. Channing, for the record, is giving quite possibly the performance of her career. This actress is so good that you don't even realize how good she is while you're watching her. The same might be said of Mr. Baitz's play. Built with gleaming dialogue, tantalizing hints of a dangerous mystery and a structural care that brings to mind the heyday of Lillian Hellman, "Cities" has the appeal of a Broadway hit from another age.
Baitz could have scored easy points pitting the younger Wyeths, both smart and articulate, against a square, stodgy mom and dad. Instead, he has crafted an assortment of people who repeatedly defy any urge to pigeonhole or judge them - who, rather, challenge the audience to see their shared humanity in all its funny, maddening, moving variety. That humanity seems even richer, and more real, in this production than it did when "Cities" premiered off-Broadway. The expert cast, under Mantello's thoughtful direction, mines the conflicts for all their hilarity and poignance.
Baitz's initial banter is fun, but in Act Two dimensions are added and the play becomes Tennessee-Williams-like in its recriminations, revelations, and shifting loyalties, going beyond the scope of the usual "Someone's spilling the beans" drama. As the rage boils to a head, the characters find that they never really knew each other, and they're in for a few shocks that are well played by a cast of well-knowns. In the Joe Mantello-directed production, Channing is perfection is what is basically a very Stockard Channing role, Griffiths does well with her percolating rage, and Light scores when exploding into righteousness. So, while they're altogether ooky - and sometimes downright barbaric - the Wyeths make for some very civilized theater.
June 16, 2012
The show was great...though if you lean politically right, I'd advise patience...many left during or after first act the night I was there. Second act was redeeming
The theater was a typical horrid old NYC theater:...narrow, uncomfortable seats, inconvenient washrooms (& not enough!)...view of stage from ecenter of 2nd row balcony(lower mezzanine) was partially blocked...and this interfered with beginning of second act…not really acceptable for $130+ seat!
May 27, 2012
Fabulous production with an all star cast.
April 23, 2012
Absolutely fantastic. Don't miss it.