PASO ROBLES — Whatever could go wrong on a nice, warm Christmas Eve in Palm Springs when a family of old school Republicans and younger Liberals talk politics? As we all cringe at the state of today’s often uncomfortably divided families, Wine Country Theatre has embraced the intense, dramatic Broadway adaptation of “Other Desert Cities” in a witty exploration of family loyalty versus self-exploration and truth.
The play, directed by Elaine Fournier, will run at the Park Ballroom in downtown Paso Robles tonight, Friday March 16 until March 31 and stars John Laird as Lyman, Mary-Ann Maloof as Polly, Christine Miller as Brooke, Garrett Larsen as Trip and Cynthia Anthony as Silda.
“Other Desert Cities,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and premiered on Broadway in 2011, was written by Jon Robin Baitz, writer and producer of “The West Wing” and “Brothers and Sisters.” Baitz’ play has been known to set up the characters brilliantly, preparing the audience for the moments of joy, as well as the darkest moments of anguish.
Christine Miller, who recently performed as the “Psychic” in Death Trap at Cambria Center for the Arts and regularly acts at the Cherent Ranch Theater in Atascadero, will play the part of “Brooke.” Miller said her role is giving her the freedom of expressing things differently than she normally does in real life. She said, “The challenge is that she’s different than me in that I am a nonconfrontational person and she is very much stepping up to the plate and confronting her parents.”
The play is set in the Wyeth family home in Palm Springs on Christmas Eve, 2004, a time during the Iraq War, when tensions were high over 9/11 and its aftermath. Lyman and Polly Wyeth are old school Republicans: Lyman a former U.S. ambassador during the Reagan years, and Polly, a screenwriter. Polly’s sister Silda is recovering alcoholic currently living in their home.
When the adult daughter Brooke, a New York city magazine writer, returns home for the first time in six years after a nervous breakdown, she bears the manuscript of her second novel for their perusal before publication. It is a memoir recounting a tragic event in the family’s history.
Both Brooke and the younger brother Trip, a TV producer, have differing political and social views from the other family members, which they attempt to put aside for the holidays, and meanwhile, some long-held family secrets come to light when Brooke reveals the nature of her book.
“I think most adults at this time, especially in the current political climate, would be interested in this because it’s a family who has a deep love for each other but they have different opinions about things,” Miller said. “You have the left wing and the right wing in the same family and they have to talk to each other. They have a relationship and it’s important. Especially nowadays with things being so divided. It speaks to that.”
Shows will be Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., with one Thursday evening performance on March 29 at the Park Street Ballroom, 1232 Park Street in Paso Robles. Local wine, cheese plates and snacks are available for purchase to enjoy before and during the show. For tickets, please visit www.winecountrytheatre.com or call 800-838-3006. Prices are $15 for students, $25 for general and $20 for groups of eight or more.
Photos by Lacey Moranville
Actors rehearse for Wine Country Theater's upcoming production of "Other Desert Cities," including John Laird as Lyman, Mary-Ann Maloof as Polly, Christine Miller as Brooke, Garrett Larsen as Trip and Cynthia Anthony as Silda.