In a Broadway season remarkable for its number of quality productions, Jon Robin Baitz’s brilliant “Other Desert Cities” stands a step above the rest.
The play is set in 2004 in Palm Springs, where the Wyeth clan is in the midst of a troubled family reunion. Polly (Stockard Channing) and Lyman (Stacy Keach) are wealthy conservative Republicans, once friends of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They live with Polly’s sister, Silda Grauman (Judith Light), with whom Polly once wrote screenplays.
Returning to the nest for the Christmas holidays are their son Trip (Thomas Sadoski) and daughter Brooke (Rachel Griffiths). The latter has become a writer with a liberal bent and she’s written a memoir about growing up — a book her parents don’t want published. It’s centered on Brooke’s deceased brother, who committed suicide after an anti-Vietnam War protest went horribly wrong.
As depressing as this might sound, “Other Desert Cities” is life affirming and in some ways as joyous as a good musical. It’s an intelligent story brilliantly acted, and one of the few occasions when you can leave a Broadway theater and say the show was worth more than the price of admission.