Other Desert Cities Where Your Parents' Best Friends Are Ron and Nancy Reagan

A daughter returns to her parents' home where she reveals she is about to write a memoir - a bit of unwelcome news that further strains relations among her relatives, both liberal and conservative.

She's been away so long in large part because she believes her parents have put their political leanings and her father's career before their own children.

As Jackson Gay, director of the Alley Theatre production of Other Desert Cities explains it, playwright Jon Robin Batitz (think Brothers & Sisters on TV) has put together a really good dysfunctional family drama that is funny and also an activist kind of play about politics.

The setting is Christmas 2004. The parents are old school conservatives whose best friends are Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Daughter Brooke (Alley company member Elizabeth Bunch) is a liberal Democrat and her aunt is "a raging old school liberal Democrat", Gay says. Her brother is the one person who's more apolitical; he refuses to enter into all their fights.

All is complicated and affected by the previous suicide of another brother who was strongly anti-war and the family decisions that immediately followed his death, including the parents' move to Palm Springs in a sort of self-exile, Gay says.

"This play shows the love that can exist in a family and also the hurt." For these people, she says, it's become so important to not give an inch, so sure are they that they are right.

It also covers the question of privacy rights as in, at what point does art trump life -- do you have the right to use parts of other people's lives when you are writing up your own. "Brooke would argue, you write what you know," Gay says.

Audience goers expecting a stereotypical send-up of conservatives or liberals in this two-act, two-hour play will be surprised, says Gay, adding that there is a plot twist at the end that will leave you questioning all your previous assumptions. The scenic design by Takeshi promises to reinforce the desert isolation (the title of the play comes from the other-desert- cities highway sign next to the one to Palm Springs).

Richard Bekins as patriarch Lyman Wyeth returns to the Alley after a 25-year absence and Linda Thorson as Aunt Polly checks in after being gone more than three decades.

Come check out the reunion on stage at Other Desert Cities begins Friday, January 10, opens Wednesday, January 15 and runs through February 2. . 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26-$80.

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