Theater Review - "Other Desert Cities" gets Out of Box treatment

Marietta theater and director Kirk Seaman take on the popular Broadway production

Opening at Out of Box Theatre this month, the play Other Desert Cities received a great deal of acclaim when it debuted on Broadway, being nominated for five Tony Awards in 2012 (with a win for actress Judith Light) and finishing as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. The story focuses on an adult daughter returning home to encounter her Republican family at Christmas and break the news to them that she is publishing a memoir that may not meet everyone’s approval. Certainly many Atlantans can relate to crossing a political and personal divide over the holiday dinner table.

First off, about that title … director Kirk Seaman explains that Other Desert Cities is a reference to street signs posted along the highway headed out to Palm Springs. One basically has the choice of veering toward Palm Springs, or to all other local destinations, lumped together under this category.

“I think it also really has to do with the fact that this family is traveling in one direction, but the truth of the family is kind of in a different place, it’s a reference to that as well,” Seaman says. “I really think the show asks some very interesting questions about the nature of truth and the nature of how we perceive truth based on where we’re standing.”

Seaman cites his personal interest in family dynamics as a motivating factor compelling him to work with this material. He sees another theme of the show as the study of how parents’ actions towards one child can affect the entire family as a whole. While this is Seaman’s first directing gig with Out of Box, he has been on the Atlanta theater scene for over 20 years, having worked with the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, and other groups around town.

Whereas the show is ostensibly billed as a comedy, given the subject matter of the main character’s memoir, Seaman notes that it is very dark. “It’s a comedy in certain respects, but it certainly has a good deal of drama,” he says. “The secrets that this family is dealing with are certainly very serious.”

So don’t expect a light, fluffy comedy, but rather a story that finds the humor in some serious situations. It’s something everyone has experienced. “People can relate to family members not always seeing something in the same light, for political reasons or the generational differences between parents and children,” Seaman says.

One difference between the Broadway production and Out of Box’s version is the age of the actors. The Atlanta crew is a bit younger than the New York cast, but Seaman says regardless of age, they’re more than up for the task. “Everyone is doing an outstanding job connecting with the roles and to each other,” he says.

At any rate, you can expect to leave the theater feeling a lot better about your own family dynamics, which is not a bad thing as we head towards those Thanksgiving get-togethers.

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