OTHER DESERT CITIES presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Sept. 22. You can read the show description here.
ETC begins their new season with a good production of the strangely compelling OTHER DESERT CITIES. Director D. Lynn Myers leads of quintet cast of ETC favorites through this one-room family drama.
While there were some solid moments throughout the show, on opening night it felt like the cast had yet to jell into a believable family unit. There was this “deliberateness” to the performances that seemed to be more dictated by the script than by the characters. Of the performers, Dale Hodges as Silda had the most defined performance.
Even when the characters interacted in pairs or trios the emotional connection and history seemed lacking. Simply put with an example: I’d expect the dynamic between Brooke and her aunt Silda to be different in front of mother/sister Polly then when the two of them are alone. But everything seemed to be played at the same level. The pacing also dragged a bit throughout, hindered by too many pregnant pauses and sometimes drawn out reactions.
In the second act, when Brooke is told to sit down so she can hear the “truth” of the family tragedy, there is a noticeable shift in the audience. We are ready for the emotional payoff, but the scene doesn’t build any momentum and flounders. However, I do believe that most of these issues will resolve themselves during the early performances of the run.
Brian c. Mehring provides another beautiful set. I enjoyed how he brought in the colors and textures of the desert into the room. But for me, the furnishing and decor skewed the room more 1970s than 2004.
The decision to place the couch center stage facing to the audience seemed to cause some blocking issues. When all cast members were on stage, several actors were pushed to the edges of the room, making for some awkward positioning at the fireplace, mini bar and against the stage left wall. When seated at the opposing chairs downstage and to the side of the couch, actors had a tendency to upstage themselves. Brooke’s reaction to the “truth” is lost to the audience as she is facing her father upstage for extended peiords.
Overall this is a good production of an interesting script. It just needs to be a bit more spontaneous and dynamic to reach the emotional notes it’s not quite hitting.
Click here for a complete list of show times for OTHER DESERT CITIES.
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