Playwright Jon Robin Baitz has joined the roll call of legendary Broadway icons such as Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams with "Other Desert Cities." Baitz's words are destined to be heard over and over again for future generations as this play is an instant classic.
The drama, with generous wit, transports us into the complex and increasingly dark lives of what appears to be a successful country club Palm Springs family. The political differences between generations gathered for Christmas seem no more sharp than the holiday table of most American families. The dialogue is sharply divided but respectful and held in bounds because of familial love. However, it doesn't take the Wyeth family long to tear down those barriers and make the line of civility disappear into the cold whiteness of the brilliantly designed set.
Joe Mantello directs this masterpiece with a firm hand and allows even silence to speak volumes. Once again he proves there is simply nothing that this extraordinary man can't do with excellence no matter if it is his directing or acting. The director holds tightly in place the Wyeth family so they don't spin out of control into the pitfalls of a million divided families we have seen before on stage and film. With this discipline, Mantello keeps it devastatingly real.
Not since Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst led the cast of Eugene O'Neill's "Moon for the Misbegotten" in 1973 has Broadway seen a better ensemble cast. The legendary Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach give the best performances of their careers. Channing as Polly Wyeth plays with the audience as she does her family. As she roams the stage we swing from compassion for Polly Wyeth to dismay with her behavior.
As the siblings of the Wyeth family Rachel Griffiths and Thomas Sadoski easily hold their own with the iconic actors on stage. Griffiths' reputation as an actor clearly has been taken to a new level with this work. Sadoski comes of age as an actor with his ability to be the calm center of the play. With his considerable acting skill in playing the 'safe place', the play remains a family drama and not inmates at the asylum.
The breathtaking performance of Judith Light as Polly Wyeth's sister Silda, almost steals the show from these stage veterans. Light's supporting role is limited but the stage comes alive when she is present. More than providing the comic relief, Silda stealthily has orchestrated the symphony of the families discontent. Far from being out of control as a 'recovering' alcoholic, Silda knows exactly the damage she is creating internally within the family. After her sterling and Tony nominated-turn in "Lombardi," Light has, with this role, sealed her reputation as one of Broadway's most exciting new actors. The actress has earned a long career on the stage with just two remarkable performances.
If you want to see a Broadway play that has earned its place among the greats then you better get your ticket as fast as you can. "Other Desert Cities" is playing to full houses and enthusiastic audiences.