by John Robin Baitz
Director’s Notes, February 2016
family: noun (pl. families)
1. (treated as sing. Or pl.) a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
What is it about the American family that playwrights continue to find so irresistible? Maybe it’s the fact that the characters are often unique, compelling, and clearly unhinged, or that the storylines are bizarre and impossible to predict, or that running through it all are epic emotions that have little to nothing to do with reason. Whatever it is, I hope the fascination continues.
What drew me initially to “Other Desert Cities” was its robust, literary language and wonderfully passionate characters, but as I read further it became clear to me that just beneath the surface is an examination of American politics. The unsaid connection is that families, much like politics, operate on carefully constructed fictions as well truths. Not until I had my own family did I realize that this wobbly balance of fiction and truth is a necessary ill as at stake is the sanity of all involved.
What the Wythe family shows us in all its ugly glory is that family is an arena where we are often thoughtless, mercenary, lovable, cruel, compassionate, irritating, adorable, unfair, dumb, charming, nonsensical, and, at times, at very rare, but vital times, heroic.
The family: The cause of and solution to, all of life’s little problems.