Other Desert Cities
What: SNAP Productions stage drama
Where: SNAP/Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St.
When: Tonight through Sept. 15; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Exception: 2 p.m. Sept 22.
Tickets: $15 adults, $12 senior citizens and students. Exception: $10 all seats Thursdays.
Information: 402-341-2757 or snapproductions.com
Actress Connie Lee had never heard of “Other Desert Cities” before SNAP Productions announced that it would open its 2013-14 season tonight.
But a quick online search told Lee the play had been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and the 2011 Broadway cast included heavyweights she admired: Stockard Channing, Judith Light, Stacy Keach, Rachel Griffiths.
She also noticed it was written by Jon Robin Baitz, author of “The Paris Letter,” a critically praised show in which Lee starred for SNAP in early 2012.
When she read “Other Desert Cities,” Lee was hooked. Now she's excited to be cast in it as Polly Wyeth, matriarch of an affluent but troubled Palm Springs, Calif., family with a painful secret in its long-ago past. When daughter Brooke comes home for Christmas after a long absence, she triggers family turmoil by announcing she's publishing a memoir that includes commentary on her brother's suicide.
“Family-dysfunction dramas are a dime a dozen,” said Kevin Barratt, who plays Polly's husband. “But this one is not black and white. There's good and bad in everybody.”
Lee said that as people watch the story's twists and turns unfold, their understanding and sympathies will shift back and forth, and they may find themselves asking questions.
What's a good enough reason to put up a false front? What is there to protect? What's earthshaking enough to shake out the truth at long last?
Director Todd Brooks said the conversation is exceptionally witty in this politically divergent family. Both parents are staunch Republicans, personal friends of the Reagans.
“To his credit, Baitz didn't make this a political thriller,” Brooks said. “What's intriguing is the dynamics among the family, how they manipulate each other. What you hear may not always be the truth.”
Kim Jubenville, who plays Polly's sister, sums the play up more succinctly: “Lots of crazy stuff happens in families around Christmas.”