CHICAGO, Tuesday, January 29, 2013. On January 22, the coldest night in Chicago in the past two years, Goodman Theatre was a welcome refuge. The audience was able to escape the brutal cold for the warm confines of Palm Springs for the opening night of Jon Robin Baitz’s political potboiler, Other Desert Cities—a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award-nominated Broadway show.
It’s Christmas Eve, 2004, at the Palm Springs mansion of Lyman (Chelcie Ross) and Polly Wyeth (Deanna Dunagan)—a notably conservative California couple that bear a striking resemblance to another former California couple named, Nancy and Ron. Both Lyman and Ron started out as actors, moved to politics, (with one becoming President) then suffered and died from dementia. Both Polly and Nancy were socially conscious, strong, determined and precise ladies who supported and loved their men.
The Wyeth family has gathered together for the holiday with son Trip (John Hoogenakker), a laid-back Hollywood reality TV producer who tries to avoid conflict and taking sides; and daughter Brooke (Tracy Michelle Arnold), a liberal writer with a history of depression who has just flown-in from New York; and Polly’s sister Silda (Linda Kimbrough), a liberal former screenwriter recently released from rehab.
The liberals line-up against the conservatives as Brooke brings out a manuscript of her book that threatens to expose a long-buried family secret and destroy the carefully constructed reputations of her mom and dad.
In many ways, Other Desert Cities is a microcosm of what is happening across America with the right-wing and left-wing unable to find any middle ground. The story is not unlike what is happening in many families, rich and poor, that just can’t see eye-to-eye even though they love each other. Baitz’s play tackles a variety of topics through the use of smart dialogue and some very humorous quips especially from the mouth of the hilarious semi-out-of-it Silda but the bottom line is tragic.
Personal and hateful attacks ignite between the liberal-minded Brooke and her Regan-era conservative mother, Polly while bother Trip just wants everyone to be happy and Daddy Lyman tries to remain loyal to both his wife and daughter.
The show was directed by Artistic Associate Henry Wishcamper. The creative team of includes: Thomas Lynch (Set Designer), David Lander (Lighting Designer), Richard Woodbury (Sound Designer), Kaye Voyce (Costume Designer) and Joseph Pindelski (Dramaturg). Joseph Drummond is the production stage manager.
Tickets ($25 – $86; subject to change) can be purchased online at Goodman Theatre or by phone at 312 443 3800 or at the box office at 170 North Dearborn. Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes including one 15 minute intermission. Other Desert Cities runs through February 17, 2013.