“Other Desert Cities,” by Jon Robin Baitz, takes place in 2004 at the Palm Springs house of a retired “old Hollywood,” “old-line conservatism” power couple, Lyman and Polly Wyeth. Lyman (Ronn Johnstone) was a leading man in Hollywood shoot’em-ups before becoming an ambassador under his friend and mentor President Reagan. Polly (Vickie Cornelius Phipps), a former screenwriter, supported her husband’s political career in a formidable style modeled on Nancy Reagan's. Their two troubled adult children, Brooke (Shannon Samson) and Trip (Jeremy Tuterow), are Gen-X liberals. Polly’s alcoholic sister Silda (Miki Mathioudakis), who is staying with them after a stint in rehab, is a dyed-in-the-wool ’60s leftie.
Politics aside, these bright, witty people love each other and are hoping for a Christmas Eve as bland and flat as the desert outside. However, Brooke has brought the manuscript of her soon-to-be-published book for her family to read. It’s not a novel, as she has led them to believe, but a memoir recounting a tragedy from her childhood. Brooke’s need to rehash this painful history clashes with Polly and Lyman’s desperation to repress it, provoking an Act 2 revelation that shatters the family’s carefully constructed image. Adult language.