Los Angeles-born Jon Robin Baitz, 28, has been someone to watch since his first play "Mizlansky-Zilinsky" was produced by L.A. Theatre Works in January, 1985. Next came "The Film Society," a strong play about the British presence in South Africa, which traveled from the Los Angeles Theatre Center to London, New York and San Francisco. Writing in London's Plays and Players magazine, Charles Marowitz called the play "as auspicious" a premiere as John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" or Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party."
Much as "Mizlansky-Zilinsky" drew on Baitz's experiences working for a Hollywood producer, both "The Film Society" and his next play, "Dutch Landscape," were set in South Africa, where he spent much of his childhood. Although "Dutch Landscape's" premiere last season at the Taper was skewered by the press, the playwright had four more commissions going when its run ended in March.
Since then, Baitz has accelerated his pace and broadened his subject matter. This year alone, the bicoastal writer sent off for production one play about an expatriate British psychiatrist, another about a Holocaust survivor-turned- bon vivant and the screenplay for a romantic psychological thriller--plus finished most of a novel. Wrote New York magazine drama critic John Simon last year: "Though it's riskier to gamble on writers' futures than on pork bellies, I would invest in Jon Robin Baitz."