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November 3, 2011

The No. 1 Reason To See: Other Desert Cities

by Jesse North

other desert cities broadway poster rachel griffiths stockard channing judith light lincoln center jon robin baitzBroadway has given us some great family dramas recently, but that juicy genre becomes elevated when the kin in question are warring over something bigger than themselves. This is the case in Jon Robin Baitz’s new play Other Desert Cities, which stars the stellar cast of Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing, Judith Light, Thomas Sadoski, and Stacy Keach. The Wyeths are all together for the holidays in the patriarchal home in Palm Springs, but the jovial gathering gets intense when novelist daughter Brooke reveals she’s about to publish a manuscript that reopens the wounds of the passing of her brother. In addition to the family’s still-unresolved grief, the fact that he was an accessory in an attack on national security doesn’t help matters.

The No. 1 Reason To See Other Desert Cities: The constant switching of who deserves the audience’s sympathy
This riveting play begins to feel like a tennis match as the story unravels and the audience’s allegiance repeatedly bounces from character to character. Does Rachel have the right to gain closure by publishing the book? Would the book cause more harm than good to her parents, Polly and Lyman (Channing and Keach)? The cast that creates this family on the brink of shattering illustrate their own grievances beautifully. It’s their execution of Baitz tangled facts that never allows Desert Cities to land on one side. Even while writing these words, I still haven’t decided. Sometimes, indecision is good.

other desert cities broadway rachel griffiths stockard channing stacy keach judith light jon robin baitz lincoln center

Photo: Joan Marcus

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