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'Other Desert Cities' brings family drama to Corn Stock

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Every family has its dirty laundry, but it is only that of the rich and powerful that make headlines when made public. The collateral damage is often even more devastating and embarrassing.

That is the basic premise of “Other Desert Cities,” the drama that opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Corn Stock Theatre’s Winter Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park.

Directed by Paul Gordon, the five-person play written by Jon Robin Baitz centers on the Wyeth family of Palm Springs – a family that has already had to overcome tragedy that nearly destroyed it and its reputation only to learn that tragedy is about to be replayed in a tell-all book by one of their own.

As the parents fight to stop their daughter from publishing this book, more family troubles bubble to the surface until a twist, in the form of a long-kept family secret, is revealed.

It takes place on Christmas Eve 2004, the daughter’s first visit home in six years, but there are no gifts in Santa’s bag this time. “So much for yuletide cheer,” one of the characters retorts as the drama unfolds when the book is unveiled.  

“Other Desert Cities” was a Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist and Tony Award nominee that may make audiences wonder if the author based it on a real family with real secrets to which he was privy.     

Kerri Rae Hinman portrays the daughter, Brooke Wyeth, who said she wrote the memoir of the events  that changed her life because “it’s all I have.”

Doug Orear portrays Lyman Wyeth, the patriarch who once was a film star before getting into politics and becoming an ambassador during the administration of family friend Ronald Reagan. His wife Polly, the keeper of the family secrets and thus the chief antagonist, is portrayed by Helen Engelbrecht.

The son, Trip Wyeth, who attempts to keep the peace but finally becomes enmeshed in the drama. is portrayed by Andrew Rhodenbaugh. Silda Grauman, Polly’s alcoholic sister with a sharp wit and sharper tongue until her own secret comes out, is portrayed by Cindy Hoey.

“These are all local theatre veterans and I was so fortunate to entrust these roles to such talent. Seeing these five on stage together is itself worth the price of admission; seeing them perform such a tense and tight drama is more so,” Gordon said.

“Other Desert Cities” runs Friday and Saturday, Jan. 23 and 24, at 7:30 p.m., then on Jan. 29, 30 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 1 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. They can be purchased at the door or reserved by calling 676-2196.