Other Desert Cities

 

By John Farrell

Other Desert Cities got a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2012.

It must have been for the witty and sometimes biting dialog because the play is nothing but talk: often humorous, often witty talk, but more a long family argument over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the talk taking the place of any action.

Even caryn desai (CQ), International City Theatre’s artistic director, can’t make it drama. It opened to a small audience at Long Beach’s International City Theatre June 6 and continues there through June 29.

The play tells the story of the Lyman family, especially their daughter Brooke (Ann Noble) as they get together at the elder Wyeths’ family home in Palm Springs over Christmas 2005. The Wyeths, Polly (Suzanne Ford) and Lyman (Nicholas Hormann) want their daughter to take up residence in the house next door. Brooke doesn’t want to leave her Long Island home. She says she wants real seasons, but slowly the family secrets come out and make her reluctance more substantial. The plot starts out as comedy but by the end, with bitter secrets revealed (and a token last minute resolution) it has moments of tragedy.

Noble should be the center of this family drama, but she isn’t dynamic enough. Instead mom Ford as Polly carries the weight. Hormann as Lyman is properly ambassadorial. (He is an actor who became an ambassador under Ronald Reagan.) Ford, mentored by Nancy Reagan, wants her daughter to conform. Blake Anthony Edwards as son Trip, a reality show producer, is funny but not much help as the drama unfolds and Eileen T’Kaye as Silda Grauman, an alcoholic aunt, drinks and fusses.

With a cast of perhaps manic intensity this play might be more entertaining, but it is as sleepy as Palm Springs on a winter day. And the politics, 12 years old, doesn’t count for much any more. The set, created by resident Scenic Designer JR Bruce, is elegant and empty, perhaps representing the Lyman’s loves, but not interesting and not very useful for the cast, who often seem lost in the spaces.

Tickets are $42 to $47. Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 29.

Details: (562) 436-4610; www.InternationalCityTheatre.com
Venue: Center Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center
Location: 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

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