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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Play, but please wait for a second edition
Reading this play was nearly as enjoyable as seeing it the Broadway production, which was one of the most memorable performances I've experienced in many years as an audience member. Baitz's strengths are displayed impressively: the characters are memorable, the themes are fascinating, and both are treated with evenhanded compassion. The dialogue is so thoughtful and...
Published on January 11, 2012 by L. Smith

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't particularly like the story
This was an interesting story, but it didn't really pick up until the end. I found the beginning really hard to stay interested in.
Published 14 months ago by Josephine Siu


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Play, but please wait for a second edition, January 11, 2012
By 
L. Smith (Arlington, VA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
Reading this play was nearly as enjoyable as seeing it the Broadway production, which was one of the most memorable performances I've experienced in many years as an audience member. Baitz's strengths are displayed impressively: the characters are memorable, the themes are fascinating, and both are treated with evenhanded compassion. The dialogue is so thoughtful and provocative that it's easy to forgive the occasionally heavy-handed speech or the lack of urgency. These characters and the situation are so engaging that it's a pleasure to wait as things unfold.

But...readers should absolutely not buy this book.

Apparently, the publisher did no editing whatsoever. Throughout, the text is riddled with minor punctuation inconsistencies, spelling or word choice errors, and other errata that suggest that no one at Grove has ever read (much less edited) a script.

The most egregious error - and the reason you should not support such shoddy publishing - is in the scene that forms the climax of the entire play. You know, the scene where an editor probably should not just barely skim over and accidentally hit "copy/paste." After a major plot revelation, in case you didn't get it, pages 57-58 repeat an entire half-page sequence of dialogue - capping it off by inventing the baffling phrase: "to sew doubt."

This sloppiness definitely should sow doubts about ever buying a book from Grove Press.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideology vs. Family, July 7, 2014
This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
When family and ideology clash, which wins out?

Baitz keeps us wondering until the very end which mattered more to the Wyeth family, an entertainment industry bunch, the senior of which are staunch conservatives with ties to the Regans and others, as well as stints in high-level public service. Their oldest child, Henry, ran with a radical leftish crowd, causing them grief, and then participated in a bombing. The family story is that they turned Henry away. He ran to Canada, but in Seattle despair overtook him and he jumped from a ferry, drowning.

Brooke, the middle child, was always closest to Henry. His death and the way her parents treated him, refusing to help him, essentially disowning him, tore her apart. A promising writer with a successful first book, she broke down. Living on the East coast, she hasn't seen her family in years. She's returning Christmas Eve not to celebrate with them but to give them a look at the manuscript of her new book, a memoir featuring Henry. This sets off renewed acrimony that results in her parents revealing a long-held secret.

**SPOILER ALERT** For those of you who have not seen or read the play, you will not want to go beyond this point as I discuss the reveal that occurs at the end of the play. Why not read the play and then see if you agree with my comments? This print edition isn't the cleanest. You'll find numerous distracting errors. But don't let these deter you from reading a first-rate play that packs a thoughtful wallop.

When Henry came to his parents those long years ago, they did not turn him away. Polly, his mother, provided him with means and drove him to Canada herself. Henry is still living, though his parents cannot communicate with him. Nor could they ever tell anyone he was in Canada. The government continues to check in with them once a year to learn if they have heard from him. They decided not to tell Brooke at the time because of her youth and emotional state. And, then, the time never presented itself, until Brooke delivered the manuscript on Christmas Eve.

In the end, Baitz leaves you with many things to mull over. Which is stronger, devotion to a rigid ideological belief or the love you have for a child, no matter how difficult, recalcitrant, or ideologically opposite to you? In the case of the Wyeth's, they chose to save their son. They chose family over ideology.

But, wait. They did it in a way that crippled Brooke for life and that preserved their standing with their friends. They could have gone to the police with Henry, stood by him, and supported him. You might defend them by arguing they wanted to spare Henry the harsh glare of the media and imprisonment, possibly for life. But this could have caused them to lose their standing among their conservative friends. Perhaps, too, it would have damaged their careers. So, perhaps a pyrrhic victory of sorts for family over ideology.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Other Desert Cities is a win, November 20, 2011
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This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
This play is thoroughly enjoyable the entire way through. Filled with many comedic moments in an otherwise tense play, it balances the limits of human despair and joy extremely well. The last ten pages not only keep you on your toes, but also shows what people do for honor, love and family. Highly recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Play About What Humanity is in Today's Society, February 13, 2013
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Well for winning a Pulitzer prize, I was shocked to find two misspellings in the play - both are homophones: "poured" instead of "pored" (over notes) and "ice-flow" instead of "ice floe." This is my reason for taking off one star. I expect an award-winning piece of literature to be proofread and written in proper English.

That being said, I thought it was a wonderful, contemporary play about humanity and politics. How a person's humanity can be forgotten when we assume an idealogical point of view. It showed how even those we demonize for their viewpoints can have redemption, and how even though we feel we have a clear perception of the world, it doesn't give us carte blanche to neglect one another's humanity; we should remember that we all are fallible, delicate, and struggle with our own behavior. This is one of the most important things we need to do as a society, and "Other Desert Cities" puts this paradigm at the center of its focus.

Good read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best New Drama in Years, January 4, 2012
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This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
At last, a new play actors and directors can justify the time and talent it takes to produce. Readers and audiences will also find it welcome and rewarding. Other Desert Cities more than delivers as a text. Given the rave reviews for the current Broadway production, I expected to experience something of a let down reading it in print. This is not the case. A thoughtful, funny and moving addition to contemporary drama.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tangling of family conflict and family secrets, April 3, 2013
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A daughter comes home to tell her successful and well-known parents of her first book to be published after her breakdown, which transparently tells her perspective on their family's issues.She is well received, but her plot is not, leading to major conflict with a surprising reconciliation. A story well told, revealed in layers and, in the end, quite satisfying.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "It runs in the family", January 3, 2014
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This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
I saw “Other Desert Cities” on Broadway in February of 2012 and knew when I saw it that I would want to sit down and read it at a later date. Having just recently read it I am surprised that my reaction to seeing it and reading it about 2 years apart was almost the same.
The second act of this play is by far the strongest, mainly because the protagonist of Brooke Wyeth is put in her place a little. She is a whiny, arrogant woman, who pretty much blames her troubles in life on a brother’s suicide (which she blames on her parents) that happened two plus decades in the past. Not to diminish the significance of such an event, but come on, grow up. In the theater at intermission I recall talking to the lady next to me about how much I disliked the character of Brooke. I am still not sure if she is a hero to Jon Robin Baitz, or if my reaction to her is what he intended. I view that ambiguity as a strength of the text.
Regardless, the dialogue in “Other Desert Cities” brims with wit and the darts that this family sometimes fire at each other have the ring of true familial interactions. The best drawn character in the play, and the meatiest role, is the matriarch of the Wyeth family, Polly. It is a well written role, and when played by a strong actress (I saw Stockard Channing in the part) it dominates the play.
“Other Desert Cities” is an enjoyable and thought provoking read, and you will not waste your time in picking up this text. Like the best dramas it fiddles with the audience’s emotions and loyalties, and you will find yourself alternating between liking and despising (with the exception of the all around likable son, Trip Wyeth) the five characters that people this family. That is a realistic portrayal of most of us, our good and bad, and Mr. Batiz has succeeded in writing and creating characters that throw back at us our humanity, the whole mixed bag of it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jon Robin Baitz at his best, June 14, 2013
This review is from: Other Desert Cities (Paperback)
Baitz is a master at character development: every single word his characters say serves a purpose, a recent rarity in modern comedy-drama. He considers each decision his characters may make with masterful calculation. Other Desert Cities, a play which, in my opinion, should have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012 (the recipient was Quiara Alegría Hudes for her drama Water by the Spoonful), is an entertaining, often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking contemporary look at social status and the decisions families must make to remain intact. Absolutely worth your time.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't particularly like the story, December 16, 2013
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This was an interesting story, but it didn't really pick up until the end. I found the beginning really hard to stay interested in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant!!, April 28, 2013
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Will be doing this play this year and must say it is very exciting!
Every role is a gem. Thanks for your quick delivery.
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Other Desert Cities
Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (Paperback - November 29, 2011)
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