I got distracted, and didn't finish up my "different ways Jon Robin Baitz could have written Other Desert Cities so that it was not an unmitigated disaster." I'm sure you've been upset.
A couple of weeks ago I examined the writers in the play, and how that particular déformation professionnelle might have played out, if Baitz had been interested in the characters he had set up.
But another way to go at it is to ditch the "writer" thing altogether, because, as I pointed out, writers and other professional observers are typically cheats in plays, because their motivation for looking at events is external to the conflict.
In the "non-writer" version, Brooke has long felt that her life is out of joint because of the events that led to her brother's death, events she has always though she understood, but now is beginning to see make no real sense as she remembers them. She digs into letters, talks to people who knew her parents, friends of her brother's, police reports. She begins to see that something is wrong. Perhaps she has suffered needlessly. Perhaps it is time for someone else to suffer.
So she comes home. She does not announce that she is blowing the lid off this conspiracy. Instead, she plays fragile dove, raising everyone's concerns, and asks innocent-seeming questions that lure people into contradictions in their memories. As a result Mom and Aunt Silda fight. Mom and Dad fight. Brooke has developed a theory. She knows what went down, and how everyone has been lying to her.
But Silda lied when Brooke interviewed her, because Silda wanted Brooke to adopt her view of things, a view determined by her hostility to her sister, a hostility growing out of still earlier events. Her younger brother, Trip, has a shard of memory, something completely out of place, of an event out by the pool, someone shouting something. He offers it tentatively. And everyone, Brooke included, rejects it. It fits no one's view of what happened. Possibly the audience can see the possible story, while none of the characters do.
I like this, because in the current version, all the characters are right on board with the "true" version of events. That's not going to happen, not with this crowd. Each will leave with his or her own vision of what went down. And that's cool, because we, the savvy audience, know what probably happened, who's alive and who's dead.
Maybe we do and maybe we don't. At the end, the child of the vet who died in brother Henry's bombing, shows up for vengeance, showing that this is not the only family's pain worth considering. But they're sure that only their pain is significant, so they circle the wagons, humiliate and dominate the poor stuttering youngster, deprived of everything.
Well, that denouement was actually a surprise to me. Has some resonance though.
Well enough. Maybe I'll get to to "Cities as a political play" at some point, but I figure everyone's pretty tired of it by this time.