2nd Story Theatre's current show is "Other Desert Cities" by Jon Robin Baitz who also wrote the TV series "Brothers and Sisters" as well as "The West Wing" and "Alias." It is also the Rhode Island premiere of an acclaimed recent Broadway hit and was nominated for Best Play in 2012. The title refers to an exit on the highway in California as well as to the War in Iraq in 2004. Returning home after a six year absence to celebrate Christmas with her family, Brooke Wyeth announces plans to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in their history, a wound they don't want reopened. Brooke returns after suffering a mental breakdown in New York In effect, she draws a line in the sand and dares them to cross it. As the play progresses, each emerges as selfish, loving, cruel, compassionate, irritating, charming and ultimately heroic. The title of this show becomes a metaphor for this family confrontation on violence, blame and "the truth." Director Ed Shea picks five marvelous performers to play these complex characters and obtains stunning portrayals from each one of them. He blends the comic moments together with the dramatic ones perfectly.
Ed makes the one liners in Act 1 comic gems and the hidden secret as well as the family tensions in the second act gripping dramatic moments. His blocking of this show is splendid, utilizing the theatre in the round setting. The Wyeth family has been involved in show business for many years. Wyman had been an American movie star while his wife, Polly and her sister, Silda wrote several beach flicks of the 1950's and 1960's. Their son, Trip is a producer of a popular courtroom reality show while their prodigal daughter, Brooke moved away from Hollywood to become a writer. Vince Petronio and Sharon Charpentier play the Republican leaning parents to the tee. Rachel Morris captures the essence of the rebellious daughter wonderfully. When she and her heavy drinking aunt played perfectly by Joanne Fayan put her parents in their place is a standout moment in the show. The next moment becomes a gut wrenching revelation scene where Vince and Sharon's raw emotions come to the surface, stunning the audience with their powerful impact. Ara Boghigian plays the peacemaker son who wants to settle things between their parents and his sibling in a civilized manner. Does his entreaties work on his sister or not? A writer needs to have responsibility for his or her subjects. The surprising twist is dealt with truth and compassion by the author, leaving the audience in tears. So for a look at a splendid contemporary show that examines not only the family dynamics but political ones without giving victory to either viewpoint, be sure to catch "Other Desert Cities" for some phenomenal acting and direction at 2nd Story Theatre.