“We all live with each other’s divergent truths.”
As the Wyeth family gathers in California for the holidays tensions run high. Even in the midst of friendly banter there is a portentous air in the family’s relations. Things seem smooth on the surface, but a barrage of cutting remarks and shared dirty looks quickly pulls the curtain back on this “happy” family. Soon we learn that the daughter, Brooke, is a talented author whose latest highly anticipated novel is about to be published. No one in the family has been able to read it yet and when they learn that it’s about a traumatic event in their past all niceties fall away and the claws come out.
Other Desert Cities is in a similar vein as previous Indiana Repertory Theatre productions, The House that Jack Built and God of Carnage. It deals with tense verbal sparring and delicate family relationships. It presents the inevitable fact that when we return to our parents’ homes we revert to childhood personality types, the rebel, the brain, the goody-two-shoes. As much as we may resist, our natural inclination is to fall into those roles. We can’t seem to resist the urge to be the person they expect us to be.
Under James Still’s deft direction the layered characters are given a chance to shine. Anne Allgood is incredible as Polly Wyeth, a Texas transplant who is fiercely loyal to her family. She seethes with equal parts disdain and concern for her daughter’s perceived weakness. She has an irresistible honesty and refuses to gloss over problems. Her strength is both a blessing and a curse, making her a formidable enemy for anyone who crosses her. She wants her family to excel and thrive, but she can’t empathize with their struggles. She is confrontational and antagonizing, but it’s also clear that her actions, if misguided, are driven by love.
Paige Lindsey White gives a high-strung performance as Brooke. It’s not until the end that we see any break in her level of tense apprehension. Trip, the son played by Will Mobley, seems to be there solely for the comic relief at first. But like so many families, you quickly realize that someone in their midst has to use comic relief as a defense mechanism to hang on to their sanity. They might be struggling with the same issues, but they don’t want to discuss them with anyone else. He gives the audience glimpses of his surprising depth with lines like, “No one who takes pleasure as seriously as I do could really be happy.”
Other Desert Cities is one of those beautiful plays that leave you chewing on its plot for days after you see it. One of the play’s main points is that we see the world through our own specific lens. We take our limited facts and opinions and allow them to create our worldview. The result is that our truth is often vastly different from those we know and love and much of our lives are spent reconciling those differences.
Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. “Other Desert Cities" runs until Saturday, April 5 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com
Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing