Meet the cast and director of Vienna Theatre Company’s Other Desert Cities. In Part 4: Meet Patrick David and Jeff McDermott.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell us where our readers may have seen you perform on the stage.
I am Patrick David, and I’m a long time resident of Falls Church. I received my BA from UVA in Speech and Drama, but hadn’t done any acting since college until the spring of 2005. I auditioned for Twelve Angry Men at the Providence Players of Fairfax and was lucky to be cast as juror number ten. Since that show I’ve been involved in over 20 productions with the Providence Players, not only as an actor, but also as set designer and head carpenter. My most recent role was Ken in Rumors. This is my first show with the Vienna Theatre Company – and hopefully the first of many to come.
I am Jeff McDermott and have performed in a number of shows in the Washington area, including The Little Dog Laughed at Dominion Stage, The 39 Steps at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, A View from the Bridge at Rockville Little Theatre, and Three Days of Rain at Silver Spring Stage.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character? Do you share any similar traits?
Patrick: I play Lyman Wyeth, the husband of Polly, and father to Brooke and Trip. As an ex-actor turned politician, Lyman is a staunch conservative and republican from the Reagan era. Being a somewhat liberal democrat, I would say we have few similar traits – at least in the political arena. But as an ex-actor with a sense of humor, and my character’s need to keep the peace during the holidays, I can relate to that very easily. As the middle of five kids, I often found myself in the role of the peacekeeper, coaxing my siblings to just accept their differences.
Jeff: And I play Trip, the youngest child of the Wyeth family. Trip often plays the role of the peacemaker in the family, and he adds some much needed comic relief. I share several characteristics with Trip, including his aversion to conflict, his easygoing attitude, his devotion to his family, and a somewhat strange sense of humor.
What is the show about from the point of view of your characters?
Patrick: From Lyman’s perspective, it’s about trying to keep deep family secrets from tearing his family apart. He has built a comfortable state of pretending that he’s managed for many years to keep under wraps, and he doesn’t want that lifestyle to be compromised or disturbed.
Jeff: One of the play’s central themes involves learning to live with others who may have a different perspective on life than you. However, all of the characters come to realize that they are not as different from each other as they might think.
What do you enjoy about playing Lyman and Trip Wyeth, respectively, in Other Desert Cities?
Patrick: Lyman is an ex-actor who has spent most of his life pretending, but just under the surface he’s longing to put this façade to rest. But political obligations and the need to uphold the Wyeth good name makes revealing the charade very difficult for him to take on.
Jeff: Trip has a whip-smart sense of humor, and it has been great fun to deliver some of the best punch lines in the script. At the same time, Trip also has one of the most poignant monologues about what truly matters in life.
What is the most challenging thing about playing your role?
Patrick: From an actor’s viewpoint, Lyman’s emotional breakdown at the end of the play is very challenging – and emotionally taxing.
Jeff: Trip does not speak during the latter half of the second act, so it has been a real challenge to ensure that the audience can understand his reaction to the events that unfold through my body language and non-verbal cues.
What is the best advice or suggestions that Director Rosemary Hartman has given you that has made your performance stronger?
Patrick: Rosemary has an almost innate ability to point out where you may want take your character in another direction, emotionally or physically, that resonates with us as actors. It may be a slight change, but it helps form a clearer picture of the character we’re portraying.
Jeff: Be specific. Rosemary has emphasized the importance of making strong acting choices, which in a play about relationships and motivations, is critical.
If there were a song or title of a show associated with Other Desert Cities, what song and/or title of show would you choose?
Patrick: “I’ve Got a Secret.”
Jeff: “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. The song and the play both share the theme that we are all flawed, imperfect individuals fighting inner demons. Accepting our own faults and those of the people we love is the only way we can make it through life.
This show has had several productions in community theatres and schools all throughout the DC Metro area in the past year. Have you seen any of these productions or any other productions? What makes this show and production of Other Desert Cities special or unique?
Patrick: The very talented cast members and director, and the humor and warmth they bring to the production.
Jeff: I saw the original Broadway production of Other Desert Cities in 2011. I have loved the play ever since and have long wanted to portray Trip. The opportunity to do the show with such a strong cast and director has been very special.
What are the enduring themes and lessons of Other Desert Cities?
Patrick: The major themes I would think are parental approval and approbation, forgiveness and acceptance, the desire to control people and events, and how the choices we make help shape the person we become later in life.
Jeff: Most people see their parents as flawed individuals and promise themselves that they will be different and will avoid their mistakes. But as we get to know our parents as real people, we learn that they are not that different from ourselves.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Other Desert Cities?
Patrick: The enjoyment that comes from spending a few hours watching a very good production, of a very good, and very moving, play.
Jeff: I hope they can gain a deeper understanding of their own parents and understand and appreciate them as real people.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’: Part 1: Jessie Roberts and Susan d. Garvey.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Part 2: Director Rosemary Hartman By Richard Durkin.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Part 3: Kathy Ohlhaber.
Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Opens Tonight-Interviews with the Director and 3 Cast Members.
Ashton Schaffer reviews Other Desert Cities on DCMetroTheaterArts.