“I hadn’t known there were real people in Palm Springs,” I said to Mary after we’d seen the Hampton Theatre Company’s riveting production of “Other Desert Cities.”
There’s still much to learn no matter how old you get.
I say “riveting” not only because the play is riveting, but also because we’ve seen nothing on or off or off off Broadway in the past 30 years. Thus everything this ambitious theater company does — and it does everything pretty well — is new to us. Though if you go to the ladies’ room at the intermission you may run the risk of having endings spoiled by the cognoscenti.
One of this play’s points, as Mary pointed out to me, is that conservatives — the alleged hardheaded, realistic ones — can be very loving, and that liberals — the alleged compassionate handwringers — can be hardhearted. And so it probably goes with all convenient generalizations.
“Other Desert Cities” is set during Christmas, which is at its hokiest in Palm Springs (I know because we were there once trying to escape the gay, ghastly holiday only to be clasped all the more in its gift-wrapped embrace — Christmas trees and decorations were everywhere).
At any rate, the time of year serves as an interesting backdrop because the play’s tidings are not ones of comfort and joy.
The truth (drawn out by forceps in “Other Desert Cities”) will not, as I think the playwright Jon Robin Baitz implies, always make you free. In fact, it can be problematic, making things better in some respects and making them worse in others. And so a midnight clear is clouded over.
You live and learn then, and we have the playwright to thank for that, belatedly in our case because we rarely have the time or money to see shows in the city. (I could say the same about most of the movies or documentaries I’ve wanted to see. They rarely come out here.)
The Hampton Theatre Company, then, is the best thing for those of us locals who, while in or nearing their dotage, remain babes in the woods culturally.
Also, while at the Quogue Community House last Sunday afternoon where the play was put on, I was reminded of what Emily Dickinson said about poetry, to wit, that she knew it when she felt as if the top of her head were taken off.
“Other Desert Cities” was kind of like that.