Spiderman Redux and Other Desert Cities

January 20 and January 21, 2011

You may imagine that given two Broadway plays, a light comic book musical fraught with difficulties before it ever saw a stage, with a modest score written by U2’s Bono and The Edge;   and a serious drama written by an award winning playwright, Jon Robin Baitz, the choice for the better show would be easy to decide.  And you would be right.  It is easy.  The plays of which I speak are Spiderman and Other Desert Cities

Spiderman is fun and amazing, with a lightweight plot and so-so songs.  But it wows with effects!  That is why I went to see it    again.

Other Desert Cities, on the other hand, is a standard drama like other dramas about family dysfunction and crisis.  But there is nothing especially new about this play.  The conflicts have all been done before, and usually better.  Compared to August:  Osage County, Tracy Letts’s 2008 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner for best play, this one pales.  Even compared to 2011’s The Atmosphere of Memory, an off-Broadway play starring Ellen Burstyn and John Glover, it takes second place.  Atmosphere of Memory and Other Desert Cities both deal with books written by characters about their families in order to deal with their own angst.   The families are not keen on publishing these revelations.  Understandable.  But you need more than a device to open a play’s subject matter. The play must make it work to validate the premise.  Other Desert Cities does not do that.  There are a few quotable lines:  “Telling the truth is an expensive habit,” is one.

Stacy Keach  brings his usual natural acting talent.  Since the days of MacBird (1967 – 45 years ago) when I first saw him, he has been consistently fine. He was so good all those years ago that, while he has mellowed, you can’t really say he is better. Good is good.  So is the rest of the cast:  Stockard Channing, Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?  Danza), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under – HBO).  [Justin Kirk as Trip is OK)

So between Spiderman and Other Desert Cities:  Go see Spiderman.  Unless you are a die-hard drama goer, pass on Other Desert Cities. 

A note from the movie world:

'War Horse'  has been nominated for a best picture Oscar.

Last week I reviewed this movie unfavorably and I stand by that.   Unless you love violence for its own sake save your bucks on this one. 

Take these movie dollars and those you might have spent on Other Desert Cities, and you will be able to buy a decent snack and a Spiderman ticket.