Left – John Gaden and Robyn Nevin. Cover – Robyn Nevin and Sacha Horler. Photos – Jeff Busby
Family – they bind us, build us up and have the capacity to tear us down. Jon Robin Baitz’s play about the wealthy Wyeth family who once “had it all” and lived the great American dream of upper class social standing and good looks to boot, is a glaring look into the skeletons found in even the most socially elite of closets.
Returning home for Christmas, Brooke Wyeth played by Sacha Horler is about to drop a bombshell that threatens to expose a family history long ago buried.
Her Republican parents and former Hollywood actor Lyman Wyeth (John Gaden) and screenwriter Polly (Robyn Nevin), have banished themselves into the harsh desert sun of Palm Springs since the death of their eldest son Henry some decades before.
The cause of Henry’s death and in turn the subject of Brooke’s memoir probes the tragic circumstances of her brother’s suicide and brings the family to breaking point as they are forced to relive the horror of losing their once clean-cut and clean living son to the political activists of the 1970s, and a bohemian lifestyle so far removed from their own right-winged views.
Sam Strong has succeeded in his MTC directorial debut with a tense and emotionally charged piece of theatre that retains pace throughout and yet builds to the dramatic climax the audience yearns for.
The simple set design is a credit to Callum Morton, who cages the actors in a bubble of glass where they cannot be reached and yet are constantly on display.
Completing the cast are Polly’s recovering alcoholic sister Silda (Sue Jones), and the youngest Wyeth, Trip (Ian Meadows), who threatens to steal the show with his bittersweet portrayal of faux-happiness that only makes him more adorable.
Other Desert Cities has the drive of a thriller and is edge-of-your-seat entertainment with a sharp script that is as funny as it is dramatic.
The entire ensemble cast delivers throughout the performance and Gaden is positively charming as Reagan-esque Hollywood actor turned politician.
A sketchy timeline is slightly confusing, but completely forgivable when you see such a strong cast deliver such wonderfully witty dialogue and prove that you really can always go home.
Other Desert Cities
by Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by Sam Strong
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner
Dates: 2 March – 17 April 2013
Tickets: from $58, Under 30s just $33
Bookings: Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au