Family drama at its best

Rebecca Davis, with Robert Coleby, Janet Andrewartha & Conrad Coleby
Rebecca Davis, with Robert Coleby, Janet Andrewartha & Conrad Coleby

American playwright Jon Robin Baitz (Brothers and Sisters, The West Wing) found inspiration in this for his acclaimed 2011 Broadway play Other Desert Cities which opens this week for Black Swan State Theatre Company.

Victoria Park actor and Black Swan favourite Rebecca Davis stars in the lead role of Brooke Wyeth, a novelist returning to her Palm Springs family home for Christmas after a six-year absence to tell them she’s written a memoir uncovering secrets from their past.

‘Oh, it’s so hard to describe it without giving too much away, but she has been through some tough times and writing this book has been a cathartic experience for her in terms of moving forward with her life,’ Davis said.

‘She hasn’t told them exactly what it is about, but they have their suspicions that it’s something to do with them, as she’s previously sent her draft manuscripts home for them to read, and hasn’t done that this time.’

In true Baitz style, the play is big on conversation and family, set across a period of 24 hours.

‘It’s a very short timeframe, but it’s a snapshot of real life and you feel like you’re eavesdropping on this family’s Christmas,’ Davis said.

‘It’s such naturalistic writing and each character is so extraordinarily drawn and real.

‘What really struck me is that when I read a play for the first time, I usually latch on to the hero or the person I feel most affiliated with, but with this play you are on everyone’s side, it’s so easy to see everybody’s points of view and every character is flawed.’

She said that though the script was fast-paced, the audience would never get lost along the roller-coaster ride of the family drama. ‘They are a very close-knit family and yet tear each other apart,’ Davis said.

‘It’s that funny thing with some families that they clearly love each other, they adore each other and yet they can’t bear each other in so many ways as well. They tell each other the truth, or their perception of the truth, and you don’t do that with friends as much as you do it with family.’