At Boston’s Speakeasy Stage: “Other Desert Cities” in its NE Premiere

Karen MacDonald, Anne Gottlieb, and Nancy E. Carroll in SpeakEasy Stage's production of Other Desert Cities, running January 11 through February 9 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Tickets at or 617.933.8600. Photo by Saglio Photography, Inc.

Karen MacDonald, Anne Gottlieb, and Nancy E. Carroll in SpeakEasy Stage’s production of Other Desert Cities, running January 11 through February 9 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Tickets at or 617.933.8600. Photo by Saglio Photography, Inc.

Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz is about Republican cover-ups, familial and political. Brooke Wyeth, a once promising young novelist, returns home after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas in Palm Springs with her brother, aunt, and parents, the latter of whom are former members of Reagan’s inner circle. The festivities are short-lived, however, when Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history – a wound that her parents do not want reopened.

Directed by the estimable Scott Edmiston the New England premiere will run January 11-February 9, 2013 at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. The cast includes Nancy E. Carroll, Anne Gottlieb, Munson Hicks, Karen MacDonald and Christopher M. Smith. Paul Daigneault is the Producing Artistic Director.

The play is the latest from Jon Robin Baitz, whose previous works include Mizlansky/Zilansky or schmucks; The Film Society; The Substance of Fire; The End of the Day; Three Hotels (seen in its New England premiere two seasons ago at the Williamstown Theatre Festival); A Fair Country (Pulitzer Prize finalist 1996); (an adaptation of) Hedda Gabler; Ten Unknowns; and The Paris Letter. Mr. Baitz also created the ABC television series Brothers & Sisters, which starred Sally Field as the matriarch of a California wine family.

Scott Edmiston has directed over 50 plays in the Boston area and has received numerous awards for his achievements, including three Elliot Norton Awards, two IRNE Awards, the 2005 StageSource Award, and the 2011 Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence in Boston Theatre.

The design team includes Janie E. Howland (scenic); Charles Schoonmaker (costumes); Karen Perlow (lighting) and Dewey Dellay (original music/sound). Katie Ailinger is the Production Stage Manager.

Tickets start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors and persons age 25 and under. To buy tickets or for more information, the public is invited to call 617-933-8600 or visit

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Production History

Other Desert Cities, originally titled Love and Mercy, had its world premiere at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City on December 16, 2010, and officially opened its limited engagement on January 13, 2011. The production was directed by Joe Mantello, and featured Elizabeth Marvel as Brooke, Stockard Channing as Polly, Stacy Keach as Lyman, Linda Lavin as Silda, and Thomas Sadoski as Trip.  The play ended its run as scheduled on Feb. 27, 2011, and was later named Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play by the Outer Critics Circle.

On October 12, 2011, the play re-opened on Broadway at the Booth Theater, with Rachel Griffiths taking over the role of Brooke Wyeth and Judith Light assuming the role of Silda.

This production received five 2012 Tony Award nominations, including 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).  Judith Light won for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Other Desert Cities was also a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

About Playwright Jon Robin Baitz

Mr. Baitz was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, and grew up there, in Brazil and in South Africa.  He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for A Fair Country and a Guggenheim, NEA, and American Academy of Arts & Letters Award winner.  He is on the faculties of the New School’s Graduate Drama Division and Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA Theatre and Film.  His screenplays include The Substance of Fire and People I Know, the latter starring Al Pacino.  He created the ABC-TV drama “Brothers & Sisters,” in 2006, after writing an episode of “The West Wing” (“The Long Goodbye”).  Other Desert Cities was nominated for Lortel, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards, winning the latter.

About The Cast


Nancy E. Carroll (Silda Grauman) returns to SpeakEasy where she appeared in The Savannah Disputation, The Women, Company, and A Man Of No Importance (co-production Súgán). Ms. Carroll spent the past year touring with the Druid Theatre of Galway appearing as Mammy in The Cripple of Inishmaan (US/Ireland) and the Old Woman in Big Maggie (Ireland). Her New York credits include Broadway: Present Laughter and Off-Broadway: Balancing Act.  Regional: Good People, Luck of the Irish, Prelude to a Kiss, Brendan, She Loves Me, The Rose Tattoo, Dead End (Huntington Theatre); Our Town, She Loves Me  (Williamstown); Trad (Tir Na); Breath of Life, Doubt, Happy Days, My Old Lady, Collected Stories (Gloucester Stage); The Year of Magical Thinking, The Glass Menagerie (Lyric Stage); The Clean House, Frozen, Sweeney Todd, Kindertransport (New Repertory Theatre); Bailegangaire (Súgán Theatre); Homebody/Kabul (Boston Theatre Works); Humble Boy, Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale (Publick Theatre); Auntie and Me (Merrimack Rep); The Pain & The Itch (Company One); Buried Child, The Unexpected Man (Nora Theatre). She has received three Elliot Norton Awards: for Miss Erickson in Present Laughter, the Woman in Brendan, and Mommo in Bailegangaire.

Anne Gottlieb (Brooke Wyeth) is thrilled to return to SpeakEasy for her fourth time. Other productions include The Women; In the Next Room (or the vibrator play); and the world premiere of The Wrestling Patient, which her company 40Magnolias Productions created and then co-produced in collaboration with SpeakEasy and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Recent appearances include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (New Repertory Theatre), Futurity (A.R.T.); My Name is Asher Lev (Lyric Stage); and Not Enough Air (Nora Theatre). She is the co-author of Anam Cara: Two Women Fall in the Ancient Tale of Gilgamesh, which premiered at the Roy Hart International Centre in France. She is the recipient of the 2011 Elliot Norton Award and the 2011 Independent Reviewers of New England Award (IRNE) for her work in Frankie and Johnny and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). Ms. Gottlieb is a teacher for the ork.

Munson Hicks (Lyman Wyeth) is happy to return to Boston, having previously appeared in twenty productions at the Huntington. He has acted in a dozen Broadway productions, most recently in August: Osage County.  Off-Broadway, Mr. Hicks co-starred in Neil Simon’s London Suite and Ayckbourn’s Communicating Doors. He has been featured at resident theaters around the country, most recently performing in Heroes at Portland Stage. Other credits include Death of a Salesman in Rochester and Arthur Miller’s final play, Resurrection Blues, in Philadelphia. He has performed such roles as Dr. Strauss in Spinning into Butter at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre; Bernard in Arcadia at The Pittsburgh Public Theater; Trigorin in The Seagull and Tesman in Hedda Gabler at the Guthrie Theatre; Bri in Joe Egg at the Philadelphia Drama Guild; and Charles in Blithe Spirit at Center Stage in Baltimore. Mr. Hicks’ film and television credits include a recurring role on “Ed,” as well as appearances on “The Goodbye Girl,” “The Sentinel,” “Against the Law,” “Law and Order” and “Mildred Pierce.” His professional directing experience includes Betty’s Summer Vacation in Pittsburgh, The Early Girl at Circle Repertory Theatre Off-Broadway, and both Candide and Candida at the Goodman Theatre, among many others.  Mr. Hicks began his professional career as an original member of The Proposition in Boston, and is a past recipient of Boston’s prestigious Otis Skinner Award.

Karen MacDonald (Polly Wyeth) was last seen at SpeakEasy in The Drowsy Chaperone. Most recently she appeared in Good People at the Huntington. Last season in Boston, she performed roles in Coriolanus, Cupcake, Long Day’s Journey into Night and Superior Donuts. Other regional and local credits include Before I Leave You, Bus Stop, All My Sons and A Civil War Christmas (Huntington); The Color of Rose (ArtsEmerson); Two Wives in India (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre); The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead (Merrimack Repertory Theatre); boom (New Repertory Theatre); All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Third (Portland Stage); and productions at Hartford Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the Vineyard Playhouse. A founding company member of the American Repertory Theater, Ms. MacDonald appeared in 70 productions, including The Seagull, Endgame, and Mother Courage. Nationally she has worked extensively, from Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre to Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Directing credits include An Ideal Husband and The Woman in Black (Gloucester Stage) and Dressed Up!  Wigged Out! (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre). The recipient of several Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards for her stage work, Ms. MacDonald has also received both the Robert Brustein Award for Sustained Achievement in the Theatre and the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. Ms. MacDonald teaches at Harvard University and was the 2010-2011 Monan Fellow at Boston College. She graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Boston University and is a Boston native.

Christopher M. Smith (Trip Wyeth) is pleased to be making his SpeakEasy debut.  New York credits include Tennis in Nablus (NY Premiere, Stageworks/Hudson), and Eurydice (Walking the Dog).  Los Angeles credits: The Pavilion (West Coast Premiere), Orange Flower Water, Antigone, True West, The Cherry Orchard, and several independent films including Wart, The Golden Age, and Something Blue (Best Feature – Sonoma International Film Festival).  Christopher is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. He lives in New York City.

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