When Joe Smith traveled to New York City in the fall of 2011 to catch a few shows on Broadway, there weren’t any “must-see” productions on his itinerary. When he heard about a new play called “Other Desert Cities,” however, he wasted no time getting tickets.
The show, which opened Off-Broadway in January 2011 at the Lincoln Center and played to sold-out houses before moving to Broadway, starred Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, Rachel Griffiths, Thomas Sadoski and Judith Light, who claimed a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance as Aunt Silda.
“After I saw the play, I really wanted the people of this region to have the opportunity to see a show like this,” said Smith, who will get his wish when Glasgow Theatre Company presents “Other Desert Cities,” Nov. 21-24, at Johnson City Community Theatre.
Performances of the play, which Smith is directing, will be held at 8 p.m., Nov. 21-23 and at 2 p.m., Nov. 24. Tickets are $10.
Written by Jon Robin Baitz, “Other Desert Cities” tells the story of Brooke Wyeth, an author who returns home to Palm Springs following a six-year absence to celebrate the holidays with her wealthy Hollywood-turned-Washington politician parents, along with her brother and her recovering alcoholic aunt.
Upon her arrival, Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir, which happens to dredge up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history – a secret her parents desperately want kept quiet.
“It’s a very heavy drama about a family in some difficult times. There’s a lot of strong language, there’s a lot of intensity with this show,” Smith said. “People say, ‘Why do you like it?’ but to me, it just represents one of the greatest pieces of work I’ve ever read, I’ve ever seen.
“I fell in love with the play for a lot of reasons. It’s a brilliant script — it is magnificent from the first page to the end — and it features five great roles. Each character in itself is a fantastic role. These characters have depth, they have struggles, they bring a lot to the table.”
Glasgow’s production stars Rachel Helvey, Chris Jones, Joy Nagy, Debra Shoun and Martin Robinette — a cast Smith assembled in his mind on the flight home from New York.
“I have worked with so many people from the regional theatre scene, I thought, I know who these roles were meant to be played by,” Smith said.
Those cast members have thrown themselves into their roles, spending countless hours discovering what makes them tick, he said.
“When you think about being in a play, one of the first things you think about is, I’ve got a lot of lines to memorize, but I told the cast from the very start, it’s more important that you develop your characters, because this show would fall flat on its face if it was done by actors who did not understand these characters. ... With this show, so much of understanding the characters — three-fourths of it — is understanding what happened to them in the past 10 to 15 years because the hallmark of the plot involves an incident that happened 15 years ago and they’re now dealing with that incident.
“If there’s a theme to this show, it comes down to this question: Is honesty the best policy or is it better to let some secrets be kept in the grave?”
“Other Desert Cities” contains adult themes and strong language, and isn’t recommended for children.
For tickets or more information, call (423) 588-0558 or visit www.glasgowtheatrecompany.org.