One of America’s star playwrights rolls into town | OTHER DESERT CITIES by Jon Robin Baitz opens February 27 at Portland Center Stage

What has become of the large and long great American play? Has it died an untimely if much predicted death? Have audiences lost interest in it? Have playwrights lost the will to write it?

Have no fear – the big American well-made play is alive and well. And one of America’s star playwrights still enamored with the form is coming to town.

Not literally. He’s not here – but his play is.

Over the years Jon Robin Baitz has created a stream of interesting plays that you may not know about, some of which are preserved on tape. If you ever want to die laughing, all you need to do is give a listen to the LA Theatre Works production of his MIZLANSKY/ZILINKSY with Nathan Lane. Just don’t do it while driving. Baitz is sharp, and he penned a number of smaller scale classics in the 90’s and early 2000’s before disappearing off into TV land.

For a few years (more than five?) not much theatrical was heard from Baitz. And then one night in January of 2011, he burst back onto the scene with the stunning production of OTHER DESERT CITIES at Lincoln Center, directed by Joe Mantello and starring Linda Lavin, Thomas Sadoski, Elizabeth Marvel, Stacy Keach and Stockard Channing. The play was incomprehensibly skipped for the Pulitzer in 2012. Perhaps committee members – like some theatregoers – now prefer their fare shorter and slighter. But no matter.

When it’s good, audience members will sit still for any length of time – days if needed, but certainly hours – to get the story. Baitz’s play fits perfectly into the standard 2:15 size, so no need to get into marathon shape. But he covers a lot of ground.

And it’s quite the story.

Previews start February 21 at Portland Center Stage.