Stephanie Katers (left) and Meredith McMinn

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to ask what has happened to the Republican Party — and to American political discourse more generally — and the sorry present state of affairs, it is useful to have a brilliant dramatist like Jon Robin Baitz around, and to have his insightful generational drama Other Desert Cities to stage, as the Theater Group at Santa Barbara City College will do at the Garvin, previewing on October 12-13, and officially running October 14-29. If that sounds to you like some kind of declaration, give yourself a patriotic back pat and read on because you need to know about this unusually prescient recent work, one of the most intelligent and forceful American plays of the new century.

At the core of this family drama, there’s a politicized moral conflict that cuts along generational lines. Polly and Lyman Wyeth, a couple loosely based on Nancy and Ronald Reagan, are hosting Thanksgiving at their house in Palm Springs. The guest of honor is their prodigal daughter, Brooke Wyeth, a New York magazine writer and a die-hard liberal Democrat. She’s got an autobiographical manuscript with her, and it’s a bombshell, but it turns out she’s never known the whole of the story she thinks her memoir has told.

Baitz understands at a deep level the degree to which the left and right wings of American politics are twisted strands of the same dark thread, and his play turns this historical insight into high drama. As director R. Michael Gros puts it, “The power of secrets can be positive or negative,” and in this high-stakes family drama, they’re both. For tickets and information, visit or call the box office at 965-5935.


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