Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz will be a true family affair at the Theatricum Botanicum, featuring members of founder Will Geer’s own family, daughters Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall, and granddaughter Willow Geer. Also in the cast are Mark Bramhall and Rafael Goldstein. Mary Jo DuPrey directs.
Baitz’s funny, explosive and entertaining look at unruly family politics was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Brooke Wyeth, a once promising novelist, returns home after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with parents Lyman and Polly, brother Trip and Aunt Silda. Lyman and Polly are the seemingly perfect upper middle class couple, “living the dream” in Palm Springs replete with wealth, political influence and A-list connections. But when Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir focusing on an explosive chapter in the family’s history, the holiday reunion is thrown into turmoil. As in all desert lands, mirage can transfix and trick the inhabitants. When the heat gives way, reality comes into sharp and unrelenting focus. Old family wounds are opened, childhood memories are tested and the Wyeth clan learns that some secrets cannot stay buried forever.
“I wondered about the hubris in the act of writing about people who are actually living, and I thought so many people do this and so few people get to respond to it really,” explained Baitz in an interview. “There are so many great memoirs and they’re also absolutely unreliable in the fundamental sense. It came from my sense of trying to either expiate or make sense of my life as a writer up until now and the potential damage that I’ve been party to or done.”
The play’s title refers to a roadside sign on the eastbound I-10 that directs drivers to exit at Palm Springs, California, or head on to “other desert cities.”
Costume design is by Vicki Conrad; lighting design is by Zach Moore; sound design and original music are by Marshall McDaniel; set design is by Rich Rose; and props are by Sydney Russell. The production stage manager is Elna Kjordian.
Other Desert Cities opens on Saturday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Sept. 30, running in repertory with The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Animal Farm and Trouble in Mind as part of Theatricum’s 2017 “Rising Up” summer season. Tickets range from $15-$38.50.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets: (310) 455-3723; www.theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook: www.facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum.