Other Desert Cities

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Other Desert Cities
Other Desert Cities Broadway Playbill.jpg
Playbill Cover for the Original Broadway Production of Other Desert Cities
Written by Jon Robin Baitz
Date premiered January 13, 2011 (Off-Broadway)
November 3, 2011 (Broadway)
Place premiered Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater
New York City
Original language English
Subject Family secrets
Genre Drama
Setting Palm Springs, California

Other Desert Cities is a play by Jon Robin Baitz. The play premiered Off-Broadway in January 2011 and transferred to Broadway in November 2011, marking the Broadway debut of a Baitz play.[1] The play was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Other Desert Cities involves a family with differing political views and a long-held family secret.


The play's name refers to a control city guide sign on eastbound Interstate 10 in California, which indicates that the freeway is headed towards Indio, California and "other Desert Cities" (that is, the rest of the Coachella Valley).

The play's events occur around the Christmas 2004 holiday, when the family of Polly and Lyman Wyeth gather in Palm Springs, California. Their daughter Brooke Wyeth returns home after six years. Polly's sister Silda is also visiting, out of a time spent in rehab. Polly and Lyman are Republicans, while Silda is a liberal who has fallen into alcoholism. The sisters co-wrote a series of MGM comedies in the 1960s.

Brooke announces to her family that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family's history—a wound they don't want reopened. That event is the suicide of her late brother Henry, who had been involved with the radical underground subculture, and a horrific incident resulting from their advocacy.


The play was originally titled Love and Mercy.[2] The play was first presented at a staged reading at the Ojai Playwrights Conference, California, in August 2010.[3]

Other Desert Cities premiered Off-Broadway at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater on January 13, 2011, in a limited engagement run, closing on February 27.[4] The production starred Stockard Channing as Polly Wyeth, Linda Lavin as Silda Grauman, Stacy Keach as Lyman Wyeth, Thomas Sadoski as Trip Wyeth and Elizabeth Marvel as Brooke Wyeth.[4] It was named Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play by the Outer Critics Circle.[5]

The play transferred to Broadway at the Booth Theatre on November 3, 2011. Judith Light replaced Lavin and Rachel Griffiths replaced Marvel. Both the Off-Broadway and Broadway production were directed by Baitz's former romantic partner Joe Mantello.[1] This production received five nominations for the 2012 Tony Awards, including for Best Play, Best Actress in a Play (Stockard Channing), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Judith Light), Best Scenic Design (John Lee Beatty), and Best Lighting Design (Kenneth Posner).[6] Judith Light won for Best Featured Actress in a Play.[7]

Other Desert Cities was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[8]


Ben Brantley, in his review of the Broadway production for The New York Times, wrote that the play (Off-Broadway) was "...the most thoroughly integrated and sustained work from Mr. Baitz, who had been regarded as a promising wunderkind for long past his sell-by date." Brantley went on to write: "... directed with a masterly combination of shadow and shimmer by Joe Mantello, emerges as stronger, more sincere and more credible in its Broadway reincarnation. 'Cities' is now less of a showoff than it was, and its ensemble more of a piece. It has, in other words, settled comfortably into its own skin, which makes its characters’ discomfort all the more palpable."[9]

The reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter (of the Broadway production) noted that "When it premiered in January, Jon Robin Baitz’s first new play in six years, 'Other Desert Cities', was smart and entertaining. But in its move to Broadway, this domestic dustup has ripened significantly. It has acquired a riveting center in the raw performance of Rachel Griffiths, who makes a knockout New York stage debut. With discreet adjustments to the text and more penetrating characterizations all around from the sterling cast, the balance between comedy and intense family drama has been fine-tuned in richly satisfying ways."[10]


  1. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam. "A Conservative Christmas Heats Up in 'Other Desert Cities', Opening On Broadway Nov. 3" playbill.com, November 3, 2011
  2. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Mantello Will Direct Baitz's Other Desert Cities Off-Broadway". Playbill.com. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Gray, Margaret. "Jon Robin Baitz gets back to basics at Ojai Playwrights Conference" Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2010
  4. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam. "Past Haunts Republican Family in Jon Robin Baitz's 'Other Desert Cities', Opening Off-Broadway Jan. 13" playbill.com, January 13, 2011
  5. ^ "Lincoln Center Theater : Other Desert Cities". Lincoln Center Theater. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Gans, Andrew and Jones, Kenneth and Hetrick, Adam. 2012 Tony Awards Nominations Announced; 'Once' Earns 11 Nominations" playbill.com, May 1, 2012
  7. ^ Joe Dziemianowicz Tony Awards 2012: Judith Light among big winners for her role in 'Other Desert Cities' nydailynews.com, June 10, 2012
  8. ^ Rooney, David. "Pulitzer Prize Drama Surprise: 'Water by the Spoonful'" hollywoodreporter.com, April 16, 2012
  9. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. Painful Family Secrets Laid Bare" The New York Times, November 3, 2011
  10. ^ Rooney, David. "'Other Desert Cities': Theater Review" The Hollywood Reporter, November 3, 2011

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