Benjamin Elliott, Gwyneth Walsh (photo by David Cooper)
A family drama of secrets, divulgence, and more secrets
The Arts Club opens the season with a polished and compelling production
by Chris Lane
Other Desert Cities tells the story of what’s at risk when you try to tell your own story to the world – because your own story isn’t just about you, is it.
The Wyeth family is gathered together for Christmas at their lavish Palm Springs home, as for the first time in six years their 30-something neurotic daughter Brooke has returned to California from her new East Coast life. She’s there because she has a bombshell to tell her family: her new novel isn’t actually a novel, but a memoir about the family’s darkest hour.
Brooke wants to share the story of how her parents’ hard-right ideology was so fiercely at odds with that of their eldest child they abandoned him in a time of need; she wants to expose their part in the family’s sordid past. But she’s challenged by her parents and brother, who question if telling this story is truly worth alienating her family. And is her book a fair depiction of her family’s tale, or is there more to it?
The play is filled with twists and turns as the story of the Wyeth family unravels, and the motivations and faults of all five characters are revealed and reviled. They might appear as recognizable archetypes at the outset, but they all have multiple layers underneath that are gradually exposed. The power dynamics are very interesting, as they all have their own ways of exerting power, overtly or subtly.