‘Other Desert Cities’ brings delightful drama, dysfunction to Arena Stage

\'Other Desert Cities\' is at Arena Stage through May 26. (Scott Suchman, Courtesy Arena Stage)

Rachel Nania, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Washington loves nothing more than a story involving politicians and a carefully-guarded secret. Throw in some unresolved family conflict and Reaganite references, and voila: a true D.C. classic.

After a run on Broadway, the Tony Award-nominated drama “Other Desert Cities,” directed by Kyle Donnelly, is now at Arena Stage. Packed with emotion and moments so tense that you can cut them with a knife, “Other Desert Cities” portrays a privileged family fraught with difficulties.

The friendly disagreements and typical family banter that open the play quickly dissipate when one of the family’s biggest tragedies surfaces.

Helen Hayes Award winner Helen Carey plays the role of perfectionist Polly Wyeth, Brooke’s mother.

“There is an incredible unwinding of this secret,” says Carey. “You see a family fall apart and then become more authentic in the end.”

In addition to secrets interwoven throughout the storyline, one thing that enlivens the play is the set itself – the Wyeth’s modern California living room.

From the tile at the stage’s entry to the living room carpet, lounges, chairs and fireplace, the audience truly feels the intimacy in the Wyeth’s moments of love, grief and dysfunction. In essence, it is a real living-room drama.

“It’s the earliest times ‘tell me a story’ setting,” says Carey, describing the set.

“Other Desert Cities” is performed in Arena Stage’s Fichandler Stage, an “in-the- round, tier-style” stage.

“It’s like a fish bowl,” explains Donahoe. “There is nowhere to hide and for a family with secrets, that is really fun.”

Other cast members of “Other Desert Cities” include Larry Bryggman as Lyman Wyeth and Scott Drummond as son, Trip Wyeth.

“Other Desert Cities” is at Arena Stage through May 26. For information on showtimes and tickets, visit the website.

“Washington likes nothing more than a secret divulged,” Carey says.

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