Other Desert Cities
Other Desert Cities
By John Robin Baitz
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring Ginger Lee McDermott and Marty Stonerock
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>
We all sin, but some of us are better than others at hiding the afterbirth. The Wythe family made their money in Hollywood, and the Red Scare left them untouched until they discovered the religion of Ronny Reagan and the neoconservatives. Mother Polly (Stonerock) wrote with her alky sister Silda (Marion Marsh) while her hubby Lyman (Joe Candelora) excelled at death scenes in B movies. They spawned a set of psychologically delicate offspring: Brooke (McDermott) writes when she’s not in the looney bin, Trip (Matthew Natale Rush) produces low end reality TV, and Henry? Well, he ran off to be a hippy, got involved in a bombing, and disappeared, possibly by suicide. Brooke wrote all this all down in a novel and she’s brought the galleys to Christmas in Palm Springs. Oh, by the way The New Yorker is printing excerpts, and the issue closes in a week. Any Comments? Mom? Dad? Hello?
Strip away the political veneer and you’ll find a family driven by appearances and willing to sacrifice anything to maintain them. Jewish people may eat Christmas dinner in the Country Club clubhouse but they don’t come from Texas and don’t name their kids “Trip.” Any of the common problems of life from insanity to addiction to wobbly social status can be papered over, so long as everyone has the same priorities. And there’s the split, Polly and Lyman are tough as nails and all their kids can hear is those nails scraping across a blackboard in the back of their brain. Marty Stonerock is surprisingly brutal; I think it’s the Republican Party that made her turn mean here. Mr. Candelora is strong but not too strong; he might make some peace except he needs Polly to keep him connected politically. Everyone’s favorite charter is Ms. Marsh as Aunty Alky, she’s got designer clothes and Frisbee sized earrings to completer her ensemble. Rush’s McDermott is chipper but too well adjusted to keep us interested, it’s Brooke with her screaming mind-devils driving her to bounce up and down the steps of the sunken living room. She’s the ultimate expression of Writing As Therapy, and the central question here isn’t whether the novel will cure her discomfort, but will she have the common decency to wait until everyone else is dead before publishing?
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