What should be a perfect storm, alas, isn’t. Working with watchable and often affecting material, Egan and his cast of five feel like they’re trying to wrestle two or three disparate plays into a shapable entity. Despite a career-stretching performance by JoBeth Williams and strong work by the consistently reliable Robert Foxworth, “Other Desert Cities” doesn’t earn its payoff. This is more the playwright’s misstep than the production’s.
Evan Henerson – Backstage
The combination of complex characters, thoughtful conflicts and outstanding acting makes Robert Egan’s Taper production an absorbing, healing point of light during our chilly winter solstice.
Bob Verini – Variety
The premise isn’t especially fresh. Watching Robert Egan’s workmanlike staging, I found that even Takeshi Kata’s sleek Palm Spring modernist living room and Lap Chi Chu’s desert sunsets in the background didn’t prevent me from thinking occasionally about A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour, in which a son returns home to his starchy parents to seek their permission to have his autobiographical play produced.
Don Shirley – LA Stage Times
Skillfully directed by Robert Egan with a top-notch cast, “Other Desert Cities” deftly balances humor and pathos in a riveting family mystery story that falters only in its final minutes.
Pam Kragen – San Diego Union-Tribune
The production was, undoubtedly, a triumph.
Nicholas Tober – LASplash
Now onstage at the Mark Taper Forum, Robert Egan directs a superlative cast in this deeply penetrating, unpredictable play full of secrets and lies.
Don Grigware – Grigware Reviews
Think of “Other Desert Cities,” which opened Sunday at the Mark Taper Forum, as a holiday gift for political junkies and fans of serious theater – and, perhaps, an announcement that the mature years of a long-developing playwright have finally arrived.
Paul Hodgins – OC Register
Weigert’s delicately modulated performance is the soul of the production. She so lucidly reads the emotional through line of the play that she makes even those points where the thread gets broken seem whole and natural.
Charles McNulty – LA Times
I can imagine a cast that would really sink their teeth into this play. Sadly, this isn’t that cast.
Anthony Byrnes – KCRW
Robert Egan stages a sleek production in which it’s ultimately hard to invest emotionally in these characters, which is a problem when depicting a family subsumed by dysfunction. The fault doesn’t lie with the actors: Foxworth’s gruff patriarch contains an endearing nobility.
Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly
“Other Desert Cities” seems like it has the potential to be a much better show than it is, if only all the elements would coalesce into a satisfying whole. However, they haven’t quite coalesced in this production at the Taper; while individual parts are generally good, the play doesn’t really work overall.
Katie Buenneke – Neon Tommy
Baitz’s skillfully brewed concoction — decidedly shaken, not stirred — works exceedingly well in this two-acter, especially as the complex story is brought to life by an ensemble of gifted veteran thespians.
Ed Rampell – Jesther Entertainment
Director Egan has managed to present some authentic characters in real-time situations and made us all sit up and pay attention. Good work on everyone’s part.
Dale Reynolds – Stagehappenings
Director Robert Egan keeps the action going even though the lovely creation of their Palm Springs home by Takeshi Kata is in a limited space. The actors move about it naturally and again, as the play progresses, the actors grow more comfortable in their new skins.
Kevin Taft – EdgeLosAngeles
Jon Robin Baitz’s new play, Other Desert Cities, doesn’t quite get the balance right, but the performances in the new production at the Taper are so stellar I’d recommend it regardless.
Terry Morgan – LAist
There may be non-detractors who find Baitz’ entertaining dialogue palatable enough for your money, but I assume most patrons will not forgive one thing or another about this evening: A well-meaning but slight play with a tacked on epilogue, the casting issues, or the horrific sound problems: Depending on where you are sitting, especially in the back, expect to lose anywhere from a few lines to an inexcusable amount of dialogue.
Tony Frankel – Stage and Cinema
The cast here does him proud, as each provides a spin of behavioral originality that provides surprising and refreshing individuality to what might easily have slipped into established types.
Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter
The heavy-handed Other Desert Cities received nearly universal acclaim during its Broadway run. Maybe the second act won over viewers, but the revelations arrive too late to find an emotional link that’s needed to care about anyone.
Jeff Favre – Los Angeles Downtown News
While Brooke may have regretted the road not taken, we the audience can only rejoice her turn to Palm Springs and the opportunity for us to see the grownup variety of theater that has been increasingly scarce over the past several decades.
Karen Weinstein – Culture Vulture
Although Baitz’s resolution provides us with a more likable Brooke, it comes much too late.
Jana Monji – LA Examiner
Other Desert Cities is much more than the rather contrived plot upon which Baitz hangs observations about the LA state of mind. It provides a sharp-eyed portrait of the fin-de-siècle Greater Los Angeles environment; this most unusual amalgam of East-coasters looking down on their Western counter-parts while the West-coasters chuckle into their faddish drinks, smug with the secret to life that only they can perceive. It takes a writer like Baitz who has sunshine in his DNA.
Leigh Kennicott – Stagehappenings
Expertly directed (Robert Egan) and performed, Other Desert Cities is a dynamic theatre experience that will have you out of breath and on the edge of your seat.
Jenna Maxfield – LifeInLA
But here, in this small but fraught desert city, Polly and Lyman have a reason for being so seemingly unemotional. As it turns out, mom and dad are dimensional, caring, and wise—though, fascinatingly, the ethics of their choice at the core of the play are debatable.
Dany Margolies – ArtsInLA
A sometimes wordy, bristling and energetic offering (or is it a blast?) from Jon Robin Baitz, who always presents himself as being on the verge of being a major dramatist, if not quite there yet, but nevertheless holding his own during the interim. Wordy, but literate, and intensely interesting even if occasionally obtuse while, nevertheless, enter- taining, even instructing, with only occasional misdirection, as in the case here of older son Henry who … well, I suggest you go see “Other Desert Cities” now!
Madeleine Shaner – Park La Brea News/Beverly Press (opens in pdf)
At any rate, Other Desert Cities is well-mounted and pleasant to look at.
Cynthia Citron – LA Examiner
The combination of quality actors and quality direction made this a joy to watch.
Daniel Faigin – Observations Along the Road
Robert Egan’s juicy production of Other Desert Cities is an oasis of entertainment for adults.
Jon Magaril – CurtainUp
Essentially, it seemed to hit too close to the emotional bone. I wanted to tell everyone to go see it, as it was splendid, but at the same time I felt as if putting my enthusiasm into words was opening a vein.
Frances Baum Nicholson – The Stage Struck Review
OTHER DESERT CITIES
Presented by Center Theatre Group
At the Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.
Dec. 9–Jan. 6, 2012
Tickets: (213) 628-2772
About the Author: We don’t “review” shows here at the Lemon, rather we "review" reviews by gathering them from a variety of local review sites around the internet, judging them to be positive or negative, then forming an aggregate score that we call a LEMONMETER RATING, showing how well that show has been reviewed in total. For more detail on how the LemonMeter works visit here.