Pamela Reed, Kevin Tighe at home in ACT production
Longtime film and stage actors Pamela Reed and Kevin Tighe co-star as a Palm Springs conservative couple with family issues in “Other Desert Cities” at ACT Theatre, through June 30, 2013.
Seattle Times theater critic
‘Other Desert Cities’
By Jon Robin Baitz. Through June 30 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle (206-292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).
There is no place like home these days for seasoned performers Pamela Reed and Kevin Tighe, now relishing their upcoming ACT Theatre roles artistically — and geographically.
Reed, a Tacoma native and showbiz vet with a recurring part on the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” is playing at ACT opposite Tighe, a notable character actor, in the Jon Robin Baitz drama “Other Desert Cities.”
In the Seattle debut of the Tony Award-nominated play, now in previews, the two portray Polly and Lyman Wyeth, an older Republican political couple in Southern California with family problems. Most worrisome: the looming publication of a tell-all memoir penned by their liberal daughter Brooke (Marya Sea Kaminski).
After years of L.A. living, Reed has a breezy trip home after each show to her University Place residence — “a little house with a beautiful, beautiful Puget Sound view that faces due west,” she says.
Meanwhile, Tighe is in closer-than-usual proximity to the Skagit Valley during the run. “I’ve been a full-time resident there since 1985,” he says, “but I’ve had a house on the Skagit River since 1979. First I lived way out, but later migrated to where there were some stores and things.”
Tighe (whose face is familiar, even if his name doesn’t ring a bell) has had a multitude of Hollywood roles, ranging from paramedic Roy DeSoto in the 1970s TV series “Emergency!,” to a role in several of episodes of TV’s more recent hit “Lost,” with much stage work on both coasts in between.
At ACT, he’s played the father of cloned sons in “A Number,” a Civil War officer in “Mourning Becomes Electra,” a gravedigger in the grisly black comedy “A Skull in Connemara.”
Yet Tighe wasn’t sure at first if Lyman Wyeth in “Other Desert Cities” was in his bailiwick.
“I read the play and found it very smart, very well-written,” he explains. “But it took me a while to get into Lyman. I’d just played an alcoholic father who speaks in poetry, in a Sam Shepard play, and I’d go from that to a conservative Palm Springs Republican.”
To get under Lyman’s skin, Tighe visited the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., and studied the close marital relationship between the past president and his spouse, Nancy.
“Lyman and his wife are conservatives who believe that you get what you want if you fight hard and work hard enough. I wanted to know more about that kind of thinking and read a lot about it. But I would hope no matter what your political persuasion, this play will strike deeper than that.”
His stage spouse is proud of her local roots. Reed’s grandfather and other male relatives worked on tugboats for Seattle’s Foss Maritime Co., and she studied acting at the University of Washington.
But after finishing at the UW in 1975, Reed “went straight to New York. I always wanted to come back home and work, but this is the first time in forever I’ve done it.”
An award-winning Off Broadway turn in the play “Getting Out” and her all-American-girl look helped lead to choice movie gigs — playing an astronaut’s wife in “The Right Stuff,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s police sidekick in “Kindergarten Cop,” then a stream of TV gigs (like voicing Ruth Powers on “The Simpsons”).
When their daughter wanted to finish high school near Seattle, Reed and her film-director husband, Sandy Smolan, moved the family north “on a two-year trial to find out what we’ll do next. But I love Seattle — I love, love, love it. This is a great American city.”
She’s equally jazzed about her first ACT assignment, under Victor Pappas’ direction. “Polly Wyeth is whip-smart, passionate, dangerous. She’s very complicated, a wry, witty woman and a tiger.”
Reed likes that “the dynamics are constantly changing in the play. It’s really about how we wish there were do-overs in life, but there aren’t.” She calls Tighe “lovely to work with and really smart. You want an upright guy at the other end of the table in a piece like this.”
Reed still heads to L.A. on occasion for work but stresses, “It’s really nice to be home” — home being that University Place spot with the killer view. And, these days, a downtown Seattle stage.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org