How lovely is a Christmas Eve family reunion?
The kids, actually not kids anymore come back home, presents are by the tree, it’s time for a homemade dinner…Well, not at the Wyeth.
In the reconfigured Old Vic, reprising the CQS in-the-round space that was first created there in 2008, Other Desert Cities tells about a Palm Springs based Hollywood-Republican family drama.
Lyman Wyeth (Peter Egan) is a former screen actor and a former US foreign ambassador.
He is married to the uptight Texas Jew matriarch Polly (Sinéad Cusack).
With them lives Polly’s sister, Silda (Clare Higgins), a recovering alcoholic.
The family drama starts when their two adult children: populist Trip (Daniel Lapaine) a producer of a daytime TV trial-by-jury show like Judge Judy; and Brooke (Martha Plimpton) a writer who has suffered a breakdown and has been recovered by her lovely parents, come to Palm Springs to spend their Christmas holiday with the family.
Brooke has just completed, after six years, different writer’s blocks and a hospitalization for depression, a book that is a soon-to-be-published story on the New Yorker.
This is a revealing family about the suicide, years before, of their older brother, Henry, who had joined an anti-war hippie cult and was implicated in the fatal firebombing of a US army recruitment office.
When Brooke comes back from the last Christmas shopping with two just printed copies of the book and decides to tell to her parents the real plot is the start of a thermonuclear family war.
If Lyman is inwardly torn between the love for her daughter and betrayal to be portrayed by his own daughter as a right-wing sociopath; Polly has no hesitation in wanting Brooke disown in case of publication of the manuscript.
The story is full of twists, turns and surprises and the relationships, hanging by a thread, finally face up to some serious truth-telling that would be inappropriate to tell here.
And, at the end, Jon Robin Baitz’s play is not just the story about a broken family, but that of an entire nation linked to the same fate.
The cast is excellent: Peter Egan and Clare Higgins lend weight to the play; Daniel Lapaine as Trip is charismatic and perfect in every line he says and in every movement he makes.
American actress Martha Plimpton is wonderful in her English debut on stage but is Sinéad Cusack with her superb talent, her stage presence and her even almost perfect Texas speech-rhythms the nice confirmation of the evening.
“It’s all or nothing with your generation. Either vegans or meth addicts or both at the same time…”
Other Desert Cities, Old Vic until May 24.