New play opens at the Grange: ‘Other Desert Cities’

During the cold nights of November, go on a journey to the Palm Springs desert and into the home of the Wyeth family.

The Actors Theater of Orcas Island is presenting “Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz of ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” fame. It is directed by Lin McNulty, who says she loved the play the minute she read it. The play features Katie Zwilling as Brooke, Melinda Milligan as Polly, Tom Fiscus as Lyman, Indy Zoeller as Trip and Suzanne Gropper as Silda.

“It has really rich interaction,” said McNulty. “It has very interesting family dynamics. Every role is juicy – and there isn’t one star. Every character is fully developed and the storyline is fascinating.”

The production runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. at The Grange. Tickets are $10 and available from Darvills,, and at the door. On opening night, veterans are free. This may not be suitable for children due to language and content.​

Brooke Wyeth returns home after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with her parents, her brother and her aunt. Wyeth announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’​s history​,​ a wound they don​’​t want reopened. “Other Desert Cities” premiered Off-Broadway in January 2011 and transferred to Broadway later that year. It was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

“The other actors in the play are fantastic, which gives me the opportunity to have more depth and a true experience of my character,” said Zwilling. “I have been able to explore something I wouldn’t have otherwise explored: being a writer.”

For her role, Zwilling interviewed writing professionals on the island, and says she was moved by their dedication to telling stories. For many of them, writing is a requirement for a happy existence.

She says the ensemble cast allows the audience to see every character from a myriad of angles.

“The audience experiences the full spectrum of each person. And they all grow and change,” said Zwilling. “I love that the play normalizes common family dynamics. It addresses depression, addiction, family secrets and betrayal, loyalty, love, compassion, humility and humor. It honestly looks at all these different pieces of the lives of family.”

Milligan, who is acting alongside her son, says “Other Desert Cities” is terrifically written and very funny.

“The themes are serious, but every member of this family is witty, and the verbal badinage that happens is so entertaining,” she said. “My son Indy and I get to play mother and son in this play, which is so fun, – and as his character Trip says, ‘People need to laugh today. It’s all so serious and goddamn horrible out there … people need a laugh!’”