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“Other Desert Cities” Opens
January 17, 2020 @ 12:00 am - February 2, 2020 @ 12:00 am
Family secrets? We all have them. But who “owns” them and can brutal honesty promote stronger familial bonds? Jon Robin Baitz’s searing comedy, Other Desert Cities, leaves us without a clear answer—and perhaps ready to dig into our own unexcavated memories. Opening on January 17, one of contemporary theater’s most thought-provoking dramas will lead off the 2020 season at Church Hill Theatre.
Lyman and Polly Wyeth are wealthy and respected from the movie industry, active in Republican politics, and comfortably retired in their beautiful Palm Springs home. The façade begins to crack as the family gathers for the Christmas holidays and daughter Brooke’s new book turns out to be a scathing memoir that blames her parents for the tragic loss of an older brother. Brooke’s younger brother Trip, a TV producer, tries to provide context and mediation but Polly’s sister Silda, a recovering (maybe) alcoholic, helps by stirring the pot. Like a dark cloud in the clear desert sky, the recently over Viet Nam War shades the family’s perceptions of reality.
Michael Whitehill directs an exceptional cast. Brian McGunigle, most recently seen in The Importance of Being Earnest, is Lyman Wyeth, a B-list movie star who served as an ambassador for President Reagan. A really nice guy, Lyman likes to keep the drama on the screen and not in his living room. Colleen Minihan, who played Sara in The Sisters Rosensweig, plays Polly, the brains and central force of the Wyeth family. Kathy Jones, last seen in 33 Variations, plays Polly’s sister Silda, who is just out of rehab. In earlier years, the sisters worked together as successful screenwriters. The Wyeth children, Brooke and Trip, are played by Christine Kinlock (The Importance of Being Earnest) and Matt Folker (Jesus Christ, Superstar). Brooke, an East Coast liberal, an established but emotionally fragile writer, hopes her cathartic memoir will clarify long festering secrets. Trip initially seems the family lightweight, but proves that normal is a good place to be. Their lost brother Henry still hovers in the wings, never talked about, but never forgotten.
A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and nominated for five Tony Awards, Other Desert Cities has been a strong audience favorite for almost a decade. “All family reunions should be this satisfying,” says the New York Times, “ adding that the Wyeth clan has “the power to nurture, delight and wound one another and, not incidentally, move to tears anyone who visits them.”
Michael Whitehill also designed the set, creating a mid-century modern hacienda on the Church Hill stage. He is assisted by Sylvia Maloney as producer and Steve Atkinson as stage manager. Lighting and sound design are by Doug Kaufmann with Debra Ebersole in charge of costumes.
Other Desert Cities will open on January 17, 2020, and runs through February 2. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm and Sunday afternoons at 2 pm. Reservations can be made on line at churchhilltheatre.org or by calling (410) 556-6003. Special two-for-one tickets are available on opening night only by calling the office or at the box office.