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How much are we willing to sacrifice to appease our families? Should we swallow our complaints, even if it hurts us? The characters in Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities, now playing at Arena Stage, frequently grapple with this issue, but any sort of consensus between family members seems out of reach. When Brooke, the Wyeth family’s only daughter, returns to Palm Springs to celebrate Christmas with her family after a six-year estrangement, she announces that she’s going to publish a memoir based on a family tragedy others would like to keep quiet. This, of course, stirs up some animosity with her relatives, all of whom are trying to cope in their own ways: As Brooke’s mother, Polly, tells her, “How could I trust you, how could I ever be in your presence, my dear, if you violated the trust of the family?” What is for Brooke a therapeutic act seems to others a mortal sin, and the Wyeth brand of dysfunction reaches new heights. And yet the members can’t seem to stay apart on this particular visit, finally realizing that they’re stuck with their weird, aggressive, but ultimately loving family for the rest of time.
The play runs April 26 to May 26 at Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW. $40–$70. (202) 554-9066. arenastage.org.