A struggling NYC writer returns after 6 years to the lavish Palm Springs home of her well-to-do right wing parents for the family’s Christmas celebration. Joined there by her brother and her mother’s sister – the daughter has a real surprise to share; having spent those 6 years struggling to rediscover her voice after her first novel, she has finally finished a book that is soon to be published – a memoir about the family.

Such is the bare bones synopsis of IRT’s newest production, Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz. A more fully endowed storyline includes such factors as a third child, an older brother lost to suicide, it seems, many years ago; the daughter’s perception of her parent’s culpability in that loss; the aunt’s alignment with the daughter along with her ongoing alcohol and drug recovery; the father’s retirement from film acting for a hard-line right wing political career; the brother’s production of a low-class reality television program; and the mother’s brash, fault-finding, and controlling nature whereby she is equipped and ready to go toe to toe with anyone, and often does. Oh, and the parents have been holding onto a very deep, dark secret.

With the possibly family-destroying book as it’s centerpiece, Baitz has constructed a fully engaging plotline that wades through a longish first act, only to deliver in the second act with a knockout punch of a resolution. The long exposition is very necessary for this complicated, yet engaging, American family drama. We learn so much about these folks, layers and layers of essential facts, and are led into the conflict of the dangerously truthful book through Baitz’ fully crafted portraits of the privileged Wyeth family members.

Will Mobley, Robin Moseley, Paige Lindsey White, Anne Allgood and Lawrence Pressman in IRT's "Other Desert Cities".

Will Mobley, Robin Moseley, Paige Lindsey White, Anne Allgood and Lawrence Pressman in IRT’s “Other Desert Cities”.

Skillfully directed by James Still, and co-produced in an agreement with Arizona Theatre Company, we are treated to a first rate cast which includes: Anne Allgood as the strongly resolved mother, Polly Wyeth; Lawrence Pressman as the diplomatic ex-actor father, Lyman; Will Mobley as the television producer brother/son, Trip Wyeth; Paige Lindsey White in the central role of novelist daughter, Brooke; and Robin Mosely portraying the recovering aunt, Silda Grauman. This ensemble is impressive in their full understanding of this troubled family. Each cast member delivers a skillful and distinctive performance. It occurred to me how fortunate we are to have a set of actors who have come to our stage from a full run of the show in Arizona previously this year. They were flawless in their deliveries and truly worked as a unit for the entire expansive play. Ms. White gave a standout performance as Brooke – totally engaged and meticulous in detail. Pressman and Ms. Allgood also impressed, as a couple struggling with duality and misfortune. Mobley came through nicely with an adroit personification of a put-upon, youngest adult child, while Ms. Mosely had a field day with the slyly witty Silda.

Anne Sheffield’s amazingly beautiful and complete set design works to give us the feeling we are voyeurs, watching the neighbors through glass walls, albeit with advanced audio spying equipment. The look and feel of the set faithfully denotes the wealth of these Wyeths. And I believe this is the first time I have seen a show anywhere with a swimming pool so realistically suggested onstage.

The result of all these marvelous elements is yet another inspiring show for IRT and it’s audiences. The acting here is top quality throughout. Honestly, I was awestruck by the intensity, the nuisance, the perception and the complexity of these actors’ characterizations. Furthermore, the IRT design team went overboard in their imagining the Wyeth residence and in their construction of their ideas. It is rare indeed to be greeted with such a lavish piece of stagecraft as one sees upon entering the auditorium.

Once again, I have nothing but good words for an IRT production. This out of the ordinary theatre experience is a must see!

Other Desert Cities opens tonight, March 14 and continues through April 5th on IRT’s One America stage. For information about show dates and times, or to make ticket reservations, please got to http://www.irtlive.com or call the IRT ticket office at 317-635-5252.

* – pictures are from the IRT and Arizona Theatre Company websites