Thursday, 22 May 2014

Other Desert Cities


We popped along to the Old Vic to see 'Other Desert Cities', which is just nearing the end of its run.

The Old Vic has been converted back to an 'in the round' seating again and looks good for it. Kevin Spacey has been the Artistic Director at the Old Vic for many years and as he bows out from the role, he will also be performing there again, as Clarence Darrow, the grisly crimes lawyer.

So what to make of Other Desert Cities?

It is set in Palm Springs, where novelist Brooke Wyeth is back home to spend Christmas with her wealthy parents. After a breakdown and writer's block she intends to publish a memoir about the family. There are inevitable repercussions.

The play has received good reviews everywhere, with a strong cast comprising Sinéad Cusack, Peter Egan, Clare Higgins, Daniel Lapaine and Martha Plimpton.

The writer Jon Robin Baitz, has mainly written for television and I sometimes wondered if this was written as one imagines a piece of 'proper' drama should be written, losing something as a result.

It was a kind of vehicle for debates about American politics and wealthy viewpoints flagged up to be challenged. A British version of something similar would probably have more of a study of manners than was apparent in this production. Admittedly there were some twists, but I found the 'big reveal' to be a tad predictable.

It was interesting to view, but somehow difficult to really feel for the situation in the way it was portrayed.

It's still good to be at the Old Vic and to see a production that isn't simply amongst the west end musicals.

3 comments:

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Jon Robin Bates has written 7 plays, ALL produced very successfully---and he was nominated for a Pulitzer for one of his plays, "A Fair Country".....Writing for Television came much later.....And he really didn't write for TV that long....The Theatre has always been his first love and where he has worked, most, and still does. I never got to see this play "Other Desert Cities" because of my confinement, but I have seen a number of his other plays...."Substance Of Fire" is a Wonderful Wonderful play and it eventually was made into a film....I personally like his writing very very much and think he has a lot to say and it is usually said with great depth. I wonder if this production did not fulfill what this play has to say....

rashbre said...

Naomi I wondered if you would know more about this writer! You certainly do!

I have a feeling that this would really 'click' with an American audience, and, in fairness, it did with most of the British critics.

I could see the writer was playing with some deeper themes, but I'm not sure quite why, but it didn't quite resonate with me.

Ah well.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

That's what makes Horse Racing, as they say.....If it doesn't speak to you---it just doesn't.
It's interesting about his "career" in television. "BROTHERS AND SISTERS" which he created....He was fired from, after the first seven episodes! He had a vision...And it turned out, it wasn't their vision....so he was out! Amazingly horrific! They knew who he was and what he was all about as a writer when they made the deal....then, because it wasn't going in the direction THEY wanted, they fired him and they turned it into the Soap Opera they had hoped he would deliver.....(HELP!) Of course his name stayed in the credits, but He had nothing to do with it once he was gone. As I recall, he wrote some essays about this devastating experience in---well I can't remember whether it was The NYT or The New Yorker, or where.....
I met him many many years ago when my dear old friend Ron Rifkin starred in "SUBSTANCE OF FIRE"...(Ron won all kinds of Awards for that performance, and stars in the film, too.....Worth renting, if you have the time....A lovely touching film, made for very little money. Sarah Jessica Parker played Ron's daughter in the play and the film.....)
I wish I could have seen "Other Desert Places"....