Review: 'Other Desert Cities' at Town Players of New Canaan

Amanda Christine

With their selection of dramatic plays, there seems to be an artistic renaissance occurring at the Town Players of New Canaan. Rather than producing typical commercial enticing community theatre material, TPNC has striven to be bolder in their season selections. Needless to say, it's paying off. 

Last year this site awarded them 3 OnStage Critics Awards including Outstanding Play for their production of A Time to Kill. With their current running production of Other Desert Cities, they might have another winner on their hands. 

With an impeccable cast aided by light handed direction, this production weaves through family issues of depression, addiction and (perfectly timed) politics. 

The story surrounds Brooke Wyeth, who returns home to Palm Springs after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with her parents, her brother, and her aunt. Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family's history, a wound they don't want reopened. In effect, she draws a line in the sand and dares them all to cross it.

Director Tom Butterworth has assembled quite the cast to pull off a production filled with raw emotion and resonating moments. 

Julie Thaxter-Gourlay is the perfect choice for the role of Brooke. Biting, conflicted, some of her best moments are not with spoken word but reacting to what's being thrown at her, especially in the plays final scenes. It is an accomplished performance.

Formidable is the word I would describe Maureen Cummings' portrayal of matriarch Polly Wyeth. There is a fierce, yet protective attitude about her which Cumming deliciously brings out. As her husband, Will Jeffries(who also serves as the show's producer), gives a performance full of complexity and control. Watching these two go at it with Thaxter-Gourlay is worth the price of admission alone.

Larry Gabbard's Trip is often given the funniest lines of the play, which he delivers very well. Nancy Sinacori's Silda is a gem that I wish was on stage a lot more. 

The focus of this play is clearly with the acting. Which Robert Doran is known for his elaborate set design, but here, he chooses a much simpler, conventional design plan. Jeff Klein's lighting is also a bit subdued which works as well. Finally, Gwen Bihl's costuming suits these characters very well. 

While some might be frustrated with the late act twist this play throws at its audience, I like the choice. It upends much of the progression these characters go through and only adds to the overall theme of deception. Needless to say this one will keep you thinking long after the final bows. 

The show runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. from Feb. 5-20, and on Sundays Feb. 7 and 14 at 2:30 p.m. at the Powerhouse Performing Arts Center in Waveny Park. For more information and tickets, call 203-966-7371 or visit.