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For Families in "Other Desert Cities"

Its official. I have seen every television and movie icon I grew up watching. They are all Broadway stars now. One is even a Tony award winner. It is like a dream come true for me too.

The latest incarnation was “Other Desert Cities” and I am sad to say it closes today.

When this play opened I was intrigued by the cast first and the story line second. It is a drama staring Judith Light, Stockard Channing, Stacey Keach, and Thomas Sadoski. It originally featured Rachel Griffiths as the daughter who comes home having written a memoir about her family when a terrible family secret is unearthed. This is the heart of the story. This role was now being played by Elizabeth Marvel.

I am always curious about plays that have at the heart of their core a deep mystery, especially when it is a family secret. When you see these types of shows you always think you can guess what that secret is. By intermission you have an idea of what is happening. But only in a rare case can you truly be blown away continuously up until the very last second of the show. And I do mean the very last second. That is exactly the exquisite kind of performance I was rewarded with when I purchased my tickets to “Other Desert Cities.”

I had no idea what I was in for. I felt like I was on the rollercoaster ride with the Wyeth family. I mean neither did they so we were even I suppose.

When I first walked in I loved the set. The set is very crucial to first impressions. It is the first thing you see and are looking at while waiting for the show to begin. When you are an early arriver like me you have even more time to observe, analyze, and speculate about what each item means. The best part is seeing that set come to life in ways you couldn’t have imagined once the actors and lightening change everything. That takes a brilliant visionary and a gift I wish I possessed. It is no wonder that lighting designer Kenneth Posner and scenic designer John Lee Beatty were nominated for Tony Awards this year.

Once the show begins you are quickly absorbed into the lives of each individual of this family. The dysfunction, love, humor, sympathy, confrontation, and self- preservation are all elements that as the audience we can relate to. Each of us have relationships that are complicated because by nature when humans connect and love there is also going to be times of hate and stress. It happens. While you are torn siding with one family member over the other as the story unravels you change your mind and then ultimately don’t know what you think. You have just as many questions as the people in the play do. Once intermission comes you will begin demanding answers too.

When Act II begins is where I really and quite literally was sitting on the edge of my seat. I must have adjusted my position and straightened up at least five times. I couldn’t get close enough or concentrate enough. The audience was completely hushed but still it seemed as though I was going to miss something. The story was unbelievably good and not in that Hollywood couldn’t be true way. I hate that kind of stuff. On the other hand when you can identify with the characters and believe in the story and see it how it unfolded, even when it surprises you that is the real deal. That is a story that is noteworthy. That is a story that is Tony worthy. Unfortunately here it was only Tony nominated. 

When it was all over I was speechless but thrilled I had made the decision to see this play. It was another thing to cross off my 2012 to do list ( I had only recently found out this show was closing and I was on a mission not to miss it. God I am so glad I listen to my instincts.

But as happy as I was, I had no time to sit and dwell on that. By now you know I had to get to the stage door (! I originally wanted to see this show because I grew up idolizing Judith Light on television on “Who’s the Boss?” Lifetime movies, and eventually “Law and Order SVU”. She is an amazing actress and her performance here was no different. This is why she was awarded the 2012 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

I was pleased to get to Shubert Alley and be the first at the barricade. It is my happy place. I took my position before the hoards of others came out of the theater. Soon after security was already coming out. It is always a good sign when you don’t have to wait long.

The first actor out was Elizabeth Marvel but she snuck by and didn’t seem to want to be noticed or to sign playbills. That was a shame. She was responsible for almost the entire show (with her counterpart being predominately Stockard Channing) and she was amazing. I am happy I didn’t see Rachel Griffiths after all. Although I am fan, I can’t picture her in this role. Elizabeth was the right age, had the right look and feel, and carried it beautifully.

Up next was Thomas Sadoski. Besides being easy on the eyes he played an incredible part. He played the son of the family, an underrated part. I believe he represents the audience in some ways, looking in as he learns the saga and has to take sides in his family drama. He told us at the stage door what his next role is and I am so excited to share it! He will be staring next on HBO’s “The Newsroom” a new show by Aaron Sorkin. It premiers next Sunday so set your DVRs! I was already interested and now this confirms it for me.

As is my usual habit, after I see a play I immediately turn to the New York Times review. I do not like to read reviews ahead of time because I do not want any information that I do not already know to seep in nor do I want others opinions in my head while I formulate mine. Sometimes it takes me hours or even days to figure out how I feel about what I have seen. This time the review had been out already since I saw the play so close to the end of its run. I couldn’t agree more with the words written about Ms. Channing’s performance “quite possibly the performance of her career.” Although I disagreed with this statement about her “This actress is so good that you don’t even realize how good she is while you’re watching her.” That is not true for me. Within the first few moments of the opening of this show I knew that this play would be nothing without her. Not because of her character’s strength but because of the strength of her talent. When you are in a room with someone that talented, the lights are dimmed, the audience is hushed, and all eyes and ears are on her, you need nothing more to prove what a talent you are in the presence of. It was God given. It is the kind of thing that gives you chills and makes all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You may not be able to verbalize it but you know it when it happens.

Ms. Channing was also nominated for a Tony Award but as I told her when we met she was robbed of that honor. She said to me “oh bless your heart” but I meant it. Her work was out of this world. She was phenomenal and it was truly an honor to get to witness it and then to meet her on top of it. It was all too good to be true. She was lovely, sweet as pie. She posed for photos and signed playbills. What a class act. I mean she did play the President’s wife on the “West Wing” for all those years, I expected nothing less.

A few moments later I got to meet Judith Light. Boy was I on a high! Another gem! Again she was gracious and generous to her fans. I congratulated her on her Tony win and she was so appreciative. There is nothing better than when you meet a celebrity and they are everything you hope they would be. They are not just a talent they are also an amazing person. You feel that they really care about meeting you and when you express the thrill of meeting them they are surprised and say the same. It is a whole never level.

I was now only waiting for Stacey Keach to complete my experience but then I learned from a theater employee that he never comes out to sign. He had already left the theater. I was slightly disappointed but meeting the three stars I had was too perfect of an evening to get me down. As I pondered this missing man I began to notice that of all the actors that don’t come out after a show (, it seems that they are mostly men. What is it about famous men that somehow translates into selfishness? Are women stars just more attentive to fans? I don’t know but it is a trend I am definitely going to pay more attention to.

What I am mostly sad about now is that my folder containing my upcoming events currently has no play tickets in it at the moment.  I guess I will have to get my Memphis play tickets soon to completely cross that section off my to do list.

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  1. Well done. I am also glad I got to see these famous actors which I have admired my whole adult life. xoxo


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