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APRIL 25, 26 &27
Southfield Civic Center
I Contributing Writer
ne family's secrets and their
possible revelation cause
tension and emotional con-
flict in Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert
Cities, the final play in the 2013-2014
season of the Jewish Ensemble Theatre
in West Bloomfield.
The play, running April 23-May 18,
is a co-production with Performance
Network Theatre in Ann Arbor under
the direction of David Wolber. The
PNT staging will be June 12-July 20.
The action takes place as a family
gathers for a Christmas celebration in
the Palm Springs home of Polly and
Lyman Wyeth. The couple's daugh-
ter, Brooke, sets off havoc with the
announcement that she is about to
release a tell-all memoir.
While the parents oppose the book,
the tension is complicated by the pres-
ence and comments of the author's
brother, Trip Wyeth, and Polly's sister,
Silda, unlike her sister, has not con-
verted from Judaism.
Taking the roles are Naz Edwards as
Polly, Hugh Maguire as Lyman, Leah
Smith as Brooke, Bryan Lark as Trip
and Sandra Birch as Silda.
"This play is about identity and giv-
ing up identity:' says David Magidson,
JET artistic director. As the playwright
explores what it means to face these
issues, he suggests that the psychologi-
cal costs of forsaking identity can be
Other Desert Cities won the Drama
League Award for Distinguished Play.
Baitz's other stage projects include
The Paris Letter, Three Hotels and
The playwright, who created the TV
series Brothers & Sisters, has developed
the senior Wyeths as a conservative
couple in a family situation some crit-
ics have compared to what was experi-
enced by the Reagan family.
While Lyman Wyeth served a lead-
ership role in the Republican Party,
his relatives represent more liberal
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz
Baitz, 52, told the Daily Beast that
the drama, with some witty scenes, has
a lot to do with forgiveness and forgiv-
"It's something you have to learn
to do, or you'll end up phenomenally
bitter; Baitz explains. "In order to
forgive yourself, you have to first come
to terms with all the things you don't
know and all the assumptions you've
made, which is an active part of this
"To me, also, on a profound level,
the play is about the emergence of
humility in human nature and how
vital that is. Again and again, one is
reminded of how little one knows.
"I live in real doubt about most
things. I think I know something
about what people feel, and yet that
may just be a vivid projection. So I've
become tentative as I get older about
my claims. For example, the older I
get, the less simplistic my politics are:'
Magidson says that he finds com-
plexity of human nature very much a
part of the play, a 2012 finalist for the
Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
"Identity and responsibility become
tangled in Other Desert Cities:'
Magidson says. "It's about people who
become very real as they dramatize
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Other Desert Cities runs April 23-May 18 in the Aaron DeRoy Theatre
on the lower level of the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield.
Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, April 23 and May 14,
and Thursdays; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 4.
Matinees are at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, and Sundays, April 27 and
May 4-18. $41-48, with discounts for seniors, students and groups.
(248) 788-2900; jettheatre.org .