Daddy Daughter Mama Drama: “Other Desert Cities” at The Goodman

Every family’s got that skeleton in a closet.

Some are kept close enough to the door that it often joins in at family get-togethers—it’s so out there it could even help with chores and the carpool. “Who’s that driving the kids to soccer practice? Oh, that’s just Bobby’s 3-day school suspension for smoking weed.”

Others? Yeah, they’re buried so far inside that closet that it would take a dozen visits from Amvets and a crowbar to pry up the floorboards to unearth it.

But what if THAT skeleton was found out? And what if it was a member of the family that spilled the beans? To the world?

So is the premise for The Goodman Theatre’s production of “Other Desert Cities,” a new play written by Jon Robin Baitz and coming off rave reviews in New York City. Make It Better spoke with director Henry Wishcamper about the drama which centers on the Wyeth family and daughter Brooke’s decision to air the family’s dirty laundry:

Is there something special about working with an all-Chicago cast?

I really wanted it to be all all-Chicago cast for a couple reasons. When you are doing a play about a family, it’s important to get people that could be read as a family—actors with a history with one another. These actors have known each other for a long time.

Join Make It Better and The Goodman Theatre for a special performance of “Other Desert Cities” and post-show discussion with members of the cast on Jan 20th!

Make It Better and The Goodman Theatre are pleased to host 20 audience members for a special post-show reception and discussion following the January 20th, 2 p.m. performance. It’s your chance to ask the artistic staff and performers those questions you would normally mull for days and dissect the various themes and what they mean to you.

Purchase your tickets using the promo code MIB. We look forward to seeing you there!


There are several themes throughout the play … familial relationships, the consequences of secrets, exploitation, etc. What is or has been your favorite to explore?

I think what I am most excited to explore are the dynamics and history of family. They (the Wyeth family) are great meaty characters. There are a couple of people who played in both versions and there are a couple of people who changed—it’s really interesting watching different actors attacking each of these roles.

Watching secrets get played out is really fascinating, too. One of the things I like the about the play is (the characters) can be equally reasonable and equally unreasonable depending on the politics you bring in as an audience member. Where you stand affects what allegiances you make in this play, and no matter who you align yourself with, you will be challenged by their behavior.

Is it a blessing or a curse that perhaps the audience may connect more with the material, given our 24-hour news cycle, reality TV environment? Does it make your job easier or harder?

I do think politics make great drama. One of the things I love about this play is while the characters have really heated discussions about politics, it’s so exciting how there is a battle being fought within this family—in a smart and sophisticated and kind of a bleak way.

The script makes great fodder for a post-show debriefing with friends—what do you hope people take from the performance?

I don’t want to dictate (what people will want to talk about.) It’s a really funny, entertaining play—the kind where you’ll think ‘I can’t go home yet, I need to have a drink and talk it out.’ It’s my job to keep the play moving along and to help the actors flesh out the characters and shape the experience. If that’s done well, then there’s so much (the audience) is going to want to talk about.

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