Recently, one of the hottest tickets on Broadway and a 2012 Tony nominee, Other Desert Cities opens on the Providence Players stage at the James Lee Community Center Theater this Friday, March 13th and runs until March 28th. This Pulitzer Prize Finalist play by Jon Robin Baitz is a funny and smart drama filled with witty repartee that both dazzles and decimates. It is beautifully written and is full of both humorous and deeply felt moments. The New York Times called Other Desert Cities “the best new play on Broadway,” and audiences everywhere are finding it both entertaining and insightful. This witty and thought provoking family drama strikes the perfect balance between comedy and drama and has been called “smart, supremely entertaining and richly satisfying”.
Other Desert Cities is set in Palm Springs, California over the Christmas holidays and centers on the powerful Wyeth family. Family patriarch, Lyman, played by John Coscia, is an actor-turned-politician during the Reagan era. Matriarch Polly, played by Ddirector Tina Thronson, is a former screenwriter. The couple is set to celebrate the holidays with their adult children, daughter Brooke (played by Andra Whitt) and son Trip (Bobby Welsh). Without informing her parents, Brooke, a once-promising novelist, has written a memoir exposing painful family secrets. Trip, who is the producer of a TV reality series, tries to stay out of the crossfire as their alcoholic aunt, Polly’s sister Silda Grauman (played by Barbra Gertzog), encourages Brooke. In a series of confrontations, the Wyeths sift through conflicting memories of the past and face serious choices about how to go forward.
Jon Robin Baitz, the author of this funny and searing play is no stranger to family drama having created TV’s successful series Brothers & Sisters. His other plays include The Substance of Fire, A Fair Country, Ten Unknowns, Mizlansky/Zilinsky, Three Hotels, and The Paris Letter. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Other Desert Cities, Drama Desk winner, Humanitas winner, a Guggenheim and an NEA Fellow. Other Desert Cities received near universal acclaim for both its off-Broadway debut at Lincoln Center and its subsequent move to Broadway where it garnered multiple Tony nominations including Best Play in 2012.
This play’s adult themes and language make it most appropriate for older teens and adults. Parental discretion is advised.
Director Tina Thronson has assembled a cast of some of PPF’s most talented veterans for this production. After auditioning nearly 30 actors, casting the show and starting rehearsals, her choice for Polly had to drop out of the show for day job reasons. Now Tina finds herself wearing two hats, as actor (having stepped into the role of Polly) as well as director. Far from the original plan for the production, she is wearing both hats with great distinction.
Tina Thronson as Polly Wyeth
Tina has graced the PPF stage often and has directed many of the Company’s most outstanding productions. Over her 16 years with PPF, she has had lead and featured roles as Sabrina (The Skin of our Teeth, 2002), Mary Haines (The Women, 2005), multiple roles in It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play (2010), Patsy (Sideman 2012) and was featured in Cash on Delivery (2004), and You Can’t Take it With You (2013). Tina has directed the PPF Productions of Born Yesterday, 12 Angry Men, The Man Who Came to Dinner (which won two WATCH awards), Steel Magnolias, The Laramie Project, and Dinner with Friends, spanning more than a decade of PPF theater history. Tina has also performed many backstage roles with distinction and is a longtime PPF Board Member and Past President.
John Coscia as Lyman Wyeth
John has been seen often on the PPF stage, performing with great distinction in many award winning plays as lead and featured actor. Favorite roles include (but are not limited to) Grandpa (You Can’t Take it With You, 1998 and 2012), Harry Brock (Born Yesterday, 2002), Juror #8 (Twelve Angry Men, 2005), Tom (I Never Sang for my Father, 2006), Kit Carson (Watch Nomination, The Time of your Life, 2006), Peppino (Saturday, Sunday, Monday, 2007), Gal (Rough Crossing, 2008), The Father et al (The Laramie Project, 2010), Joe (The Shadow Box, 2011), and Gene (Sideman 2012). John has been nominated and won many WATCH awards for his acting, set design and set construction with PPF. In 2014, John marked his directorial debut with the play, Of Mice and Men, which has been honored this week with WATCH Awards. He is also an original and current member of the PPF Board of Directors.
Andra Whitt as Brook Wyeth
Andra has moved effortlessly between outstanding onstage performances and backstage roles. Onstage for PPF, she has performed as Claire (Rumors, 2014), Essie (You Can’t Take it With You, 2012), Terry (Sideman, 2012) and Sally Cato (Auntie Mame, 2011), in each role to great acclaim and entertaining effect. She has served as properties and stage manager/crew for PPF. Andra also serves on the PPF Board of Directors and is an indispensable member of the Company, giving her time and skills in some way to each production, for this one, the audience gets once again to see her in another stellar performance.
Bobby Welsh as Trip Wyeth
Bobby has engaged PPF audiences in prominent featured roles for the last five years and has created an indelible impression in each in his character portrayals. He has been featured as Perry (Waiting in the Wings, 2010), Ito (Auntie Mame, 2011), Father (Best Christmas Pageant Ever, 2012), Jonesy (Sideman, 2012), and Whit (Of Mice and Men, 2014). His portrayals have been thoughtful and authentic in varied character roles and he has greatly enhanced each play he has performed in for the audience and his fellow actors. Previous community theater roles include Sancho Panza, Man of La Mancha, and The Mysterious Man, Into the Woods. Bobby has also been indispensable in production roles for PPF, backstage and in the tech booth.
Barbara Gertzog as Silda Grauman
Barbara has performed many roles for PPF, including comic turns as a wily bank customer (The Good Doctor, 2004), a scheming fortune teller (Elmira, Good Help is So Hard to Murder, 2007), the mean cousin (Chick, Crimes of the Heart, 2003), a snobbish matron (Mrs. Upson, Auntie Mame, 2011), a British dominatrix (Mrs. Cowper, Cash on Delivery, 2003) and a lusty landlady (Is He Dead, 2013). She was also featured as Billie Dawn (Born Yesterday, 2002), Maggie Cutler (The Man Who Came to Dinner, 2004), and Rosa Peppino (Saturday, Sunday, Monday, 2007). Barbara has also directed the PPF productions of Heaven Can Wait, The Women and The Shadow Box (Ruby Griffith “Best Play” award winner and WATCH nominated Best Play) and performed numerous other production roles for the company.
The Other Desert Cities set will, once again, wow audiences and was designed and built by John Coscia. John was nominated for WATCH awards for design and construction of two sets in 2014 and has won numerous WATCH awards for his set work for PPF. Ingrid Helvig David has brought her outstanding design talents in decorating the set (having previously decorated for PPF’s production of All My Sons and Auntie Mame) with PPF veterans Robbie Snow and Beth Harrison (both WATCH recognized designers) handling costumes and make-up/hair design respectively. Jason Hamrick will be making his lighting design debut for the production but is no stranger to the tech side of PPF productions having worked on many shows as he has followed actress wife Andra Whitt (Brooke Wyeth) through various shows. Properties are being handled by Julie Janson and Beckie McNair. Mike Donahue, a talented actor, director, combat choreographer and stage manager has served the production in the dual roles of Assistant Director and Stage Manager. He has been the invaluable second set of eyes on the show as Tina stepped up onto the boards from the director’s chair. Mike Mattheisen has produced the show for the Providence Players.
If you love a smartly written, beautifully acted and stage new American play, then PPF’s Other Desert Cities is the ideal choice and a great way to spend an evening losing yourself in the words and characters of this terrific play.
Other Desert Cities Plays March 13-March 28, 2015 at The Providence Players of Fairfax, performing at the The James Lee Community Center Theater-2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 7:30 p.m. and matinees are at 2:00 p.m. on March 19th and 22nd. For tickets, purchase them at by calling (703) 425-6782, or online, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not for young children- mature themes and strong language.
All photos by Chip Gertzog.