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Family Matters: Other Desert Cities



It is the morning of Christmas Eve 2004 in the Palm Springs desert and the Wyeth family is together for the first time in many years. Brooke Wyeth (Diane Slamp) is a mostly successful freelance author of popular magazine articles with one long-ago published novel on her resume. Her latest effort to write something of lasting significance started as a fictional account of her family but eventually morphed into a memoir. She is apprehensive because she is bringing, from her home on the East Coast, an advanced copy of the new book. There are sure to be consequences for telling the truth about her parents.


Her father, Lyman Wyeth (Michael Wren), retired to the desert after a long run as America’s most handsome, and politically conservative, movie star. His quiet and tactful demeanor won him an ambassadorship during the Reagan administration. In the sixties his wife, Polly Wyeth (Johanna Spencer), wrote a very popular series of light-hearted comedies with her sister, Silda Grauman (Michaela Lonning). The fees collected for script writing did not amount to very much and now liberal Silda must live with and be dependent on her sister. Because Brooke did not adopt the political views of her parents, Polly is concerned that disclosures in Brooke’s work will end the Wyeth’s comfortable position among their friends at the Country Club; specifically, details about a radical leftist attack in which, Henry, the Wyeth’s eldest son was complicit and resulted in his death.


Trip Wyeth (Ryan McWayne), Brooke’s younger brother, frequently finds himself as the family peace maker but today he does not go easy on his sister. Is she taking unfair advantage of a personal family tragedy to advance her career? Or is she seeking sympathy for the pain, either real or imagined, that Polly inflicted on her? The Wyeths are actually a loving family but sometimes it’s just hard to see when acting and reality are not mutually exclusive.


Kathie O'Brien and Arlee Olson, the co-directors of our August production both have extensive theater resumes. Besides appearing recently in the MRTC productions of Bloomsday and Sweet Delilah Swim Club, Kathie O’Brien is an award-winning short story writer and a published playwright. Arlee Olson was busy this season appearing in Women Playing Hamlet, If I Forget, This Random World and last month’s Cyrano.


Author Jon Robin Baitz’s play, Other Desert Cities, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. As such, people of all political beliefs must come and see it. It’s a story about a rock-ribbed Republican couple who are compassionate on a personal level. People with “unacceptable” politics can be charmingly nice on an individual level, while on the other hand some might think the “goodness” in their politics gives them a right to be unpleasant. Baitz makes a plea to understand different people by listening to them. Although Other Desert Cities takes place in 2004, it is an American play about current times.

Other Desert Cities will be available to stream the weekend of August 28-29. Purchase tickets at https://tinyurl.com/odesertc. You will receive a link to the streaming site via email. The price is on a sliding scale; you can pick what you pay for tickets. Suggested prices range from $10 to $20 dollars. A $2.00 processing fee will be added to all tickets purchased online. You can also purchase tickets by calling the Business Office at 541-758-7827. Closed Captioning is available.

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