Love and Mercy: "Other Desert Cities" at Syracuse Stage

D'Arcy Dersham (Brooke Wyeth) and Joel Reuben Ganz (Trip Wyeth) in Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz. Photo by Michael Davis. Other Desert Cities

Who: Syracuse Stage, Co-Produced with Portland Center Stage (Portland, OR)

Where: Archbold Theatre – 820 E. Genesee St. Syracuse, NY

When: Through April 26

Tickets: $35-$40

Reviewed by Love Lee

What happens when a dark family secret is on the brink of being revealed? Presenting contrasting views on politics, culture, and values through quick firing wit and humorous undertones, the drama Other Desert Cities explores just that.

Jon Robin Baitz’s play tells the story of the ever complicated Wyeth family. Set on Christmas Eve of 2004, the family, who had been separated for seven years, comes together and picks one another apart, with conflict stemming from a looming manuscript written by the middle child, Brooke. The book, which is a tell-all about her conservative parents, complex siblings and troublesome aunt, causes the family to question what secrets they should really be protecting.

The quirky yet charming chemistry of the five-person cast created the semi-relatable scenarios of an estranged family, which made the plot much more gripping. The portrayal of Brooke by D’Arcy Dersham, easily captured the essence of a middle-aged woman at the edge of her wits, while Barbara Broughton’s performance as the strong matriarch Polly Wyeth, portrayed a hard-headed mother with a heart of gold perfectly.

D'Arcy Dersham, Ned Schmidtke, Barbara Broughton and Joel Reuben Ganz in Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz. Photo by Michael Davis.

But the strongest performances of the night came from the two cast members meant to be the comic relief. Executing their jokes gracefully, Dori Legg and Joel Reuben Ganz, who played Silda Grauman and Trip Wyeth respectively, helped the heavy topics move along smoothly while still adding their own conflicts to the mix every so often. The two were a delight on stage and played off the other characters extremely well.

Ending a strong and diverse season, this production by Syracuse Stage is something that should be absorbed and thought about well after the curtain call. Its strong motifs and intricate storyline allows the audience to understand enough firsthand, but will leave them pondering about it later.

Barbara Broughton (Polly Wyeth) and Dori Legg (Silda Grauman) in Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz. Photo by Michael Davis.

This production was directed by Syracuse Stage’s producing artistic director, Timothy Bond and was co-produced with Portland Center Stage in Portland, OR. The Show runs until April 26 in the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage.