Family secrets, political tensions, and surprise revelations

Long-held family secrets are revealed during the mid-March showing of Wine Country Theatre’s production of “Other Desert Cities,” directed by Elaine Fournier.

The play, written by Jon Robin Baitz, stars John Laird, Mary-Ann Maloof, Christine Miller, Garrett Larsen and Wine Country Theatre Executive Director Cynthia Anthony.

Baitz was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for the play, which is set in 2004 in Palm Springs during the Iraq conflict.

“His words are just beautiful,” Fournier said about Baitz.

Tensions are still high in the aftermath of 9/11, especially for Lyman and Polly Wyeth, who are “old-school” Republicans and friends and colleagues of the Reagans. It all comes to a head on Christmas Eve when their daughter, Brooke, returns home for the first time in six years following a nervous breakdown, along with her brother, Trip, a TV producer who has differing political and social views from his sister. Add Polly’s sister, Silda, a recovering alcoholic, to the mix, to up the drama factor. They attempt to put those differences aside for dinner at the country club, but that goes awry as secrets come to light when Brooke reveals the content of her new book.

“This is a family drama,” Fournier said. “It’s something everyone can relate to.”

Show times for “Other Desert Cities” are Friday, March 16, 23 and 30 and Saturday, March 17, 24 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 18 and 25 at 2 p.m., with one Thursday evening performance on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. All performances will take place in the Park Street Ballroom, 1232 Park St. Wine, cheese plates and snacks are available for purchase to enjoy before and during the show. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 for students and $20 for groups of eight or more.

“If you want a wonderful evening of thought-provoking drama and wine and cheese, I think you’d really enjoy the evening,” Fournier said.

Wine Country Theatre Lifts the Curtain for High Community Standards

Anthony formed the company after she and other theater enthusiasts realized there hadn’t been a long-term, ongoing theater company since the Pioneer Players ceased to exist, and because of the “outstanding talent” in the area. She said the 2003 earthquake contributed to the dissolution of the company because of the lack of professional theater spaces in the North County.

“Not having a professional theater in our town is very limiting,” she said.

Though there aren’t a lot of options in the area, Anthony has secured space for the Park Street Ballroom for the majority of the performances, with some shows being held at local wineries. Wine Country Theatre’s first venue was at Via Vega Winery, where the owners, April and Larry Gomez, had recently built a stage and were looking for a small production to take place in the tasting room.

Though Anthony said the organization is grateful and appreciative for being able to hold their productions in the Park Ballroom in downtown Paso Robles, it’s limiting to what they can do because it’s not set up as a theater.

“We’re committed to growing a community with high standards in the North County,” Anthony said. “We need community support of any kind – talent, funders, donors, volunteers.”

The theater company is under the umbrella of Project Theater Foundation, which is working to showcase cultural activities and to raise fund to building a community theater in the North County.