A family wound reopens at Christmas in The Old Globe’s ‘Other Desert Cities’

By Diana Saenger

Family secrets can either tear a family apart or bring them together. That’s the theme of playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s 2011 “Other Desert Cities,” directed by Richard Seer and opening April 27 at the Old Globe Theatre. The play went to Broadway just months after it premiered and was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Wyeth’s are a well-to-do couple in Palm Springs excited that their children are coming home for Christmas. After a few days of tennis and humorous conversation, their joy of being together begins to unravel. That’s because Brooke (Dana Green) has announced she’s written a memoir that she won’t show her parents.

“It seems to be an indictment of the parents over their treatment of Brooke’s older brother and the event of his running away and, eventually, suicide,” said Robert Foxworth, Old Globe Associate Artist who plays Lyman, Brooke’s father. “At one point, Brooke had a mental breakdown and Lyman and her mother spent a year back East as part of her rescue.”

Drama builds in this home where everyone has an iconic past. Her younger brother (Andy Bean) is a reality show producer; her dad a former movie actor turned politician; and her mother Polly (Kandis Chappell), a 1960s-era comedy writer turned socialite. Brooke’s sister, Silda, (Robin Pearson Rose), freshly out of rehab, is also at home for a visit.

Revelations in Brooke’s memoir change the dynamics of the family, especially for her dad.

“They’ve been very close historically,” Foxworth said. “But she has a memory of her dad with the older son that she writes about negatively in her book. It’s a disastrous slap in the face to her father because he’s been very caring of her.”

The family’s politics also fuel the gathering. Movie actor dad became involved with politics and was a friend of the Ronald Regan family, head of the Republican National Committee, and at one time, an ambassador.

“Parents on the right, the children very much on the left (so naturally), they are in disagreement about the war in Iraq,” Foxworth said. “Everyone sees the same event from a different perspective.”

Foxworth said with the play’s over- arching dark tones, patrons will have lots to think about after leaving the theater.

“Many will realize, we’re not alone,” he said. “We all have problems, many within our families, and to some degree, even those who might seem immune because of status or power. There will be questions about where we stand in terms of how we tell the real story of our families without hurting people. Politics will also be on people’s minds, especially concerning how parents’ politics can affect a family.”

If you go

■ What: ‘Other Desert Cities’

■ When: Matinees and evenings April 27-June 2

■ Where: The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego

■ Tickets: From $29

■ Box Office: (619) 234-5623

■ Website: