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Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz
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Jun 24, 12

bookshelves: drama
Read in June, 2012

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for 2012, Other Desert Cities takes place in Palm Springs, California where a young woman (Brooke) returns home for Christmas to visit her parents (Polly and Lyman), brother (Trip), and Aunt Silda. Polly and Lyman are rich, and staunch conservatives (Lyman worked for the Reagan administration), however their children don’t share their conservative values. While the play could have focused on the cliché tension between children who don’t share their parents’ values, instead the play takes the tensions in a completely different direction. We learn that Brooke has just finished a memoir describing her family’s life – specifically an incident involving another brother who died due to an incident which Brooke ties to his having different values from their parents. The tensions from this scenario now revolve not around particular political values, but rather from the complicated relationships that exist within families. Is Brooke justified in sharing her version of truth, or is she taking advantage of her parents’ name recognition to sell a book? Are Polly and Lyman selfishly trying to protect their image, or is family that important? Baitz doesn’t take any sides in his dialogue; instead, he brilliantly shifts the reader’s sympathies to different members of the family at different times throughout these two acts. The personalities of the different characters are well-crafted, and come out through their words without any unnecessary monologues or explanatory notes. The dialogue is note-perfect and conveys the different tensions between each of the different characters well. Just a great play overall. Highly recommended.
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