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Complex emotions tempered with laughs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jon Robin Baitz’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play “Other Desert Cities,” which ended its Broadway run in June, is presented by Fusion Theatre Company as the first play of its new season.

Winner of the Drama League Award for Distinguished Play and a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, “Other Desert Cities” is an intense and humorous drama about a novelist named Brooke Wyeth who returns home to her affluent Palm Springs, Calif., family after a six-year absence to announce that she has written a memoir about the family. Wyeth’s retired parents, who were once successful in the entertainment industry, are not happy to hear the news. Neither is her aunt, who is a writer and a recovering alcoholic. Her younger brother Trip Wyeth, a reality television producer, has his own feelings about the memoir.

“The play has heavy dialogue, but it’s also very funny,” director Gil Lazier said. “Everyone in the family has a great sense of humor, even in the midst of conflict.”

If you go
WHAT: “Other Desert Cities”
WHEN and WHERE: 6 tonight at The Cell Theatre, 700 First NW. Go to FUSIONabq.org for further scheduling information at The Cell and the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco, Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: $35 general admission, $30 seniors and students at www.fusionabq.org or call 755-9412

Lazier describes “Other Desert Cities” as having a “whodunnit” kind of flow.

“There are twists and turns in the plot,” he said. “The audience goes along thinking the play is going to resolve in a certain way and then finds out that the resolution was not predictable.”

Lazier was in New York in December and saw the Broadway production of “Other Desert Cities.” He was surprised and delighted when Fusion Theatre Company called him to ask if he would direct its rendition of the play.

“I said, ‘You bet I want to do this,’ ” he said. “Frankly, I was a little surprised that Fusion got permission to present the play so soon since it closed on Broadway only three months ago.”

A great respect for Baitz’s talents as a writer is one reason why Lazier has been excited about being part of this production.

“He’s a wonderful writer, as good as the best storytellers in America today,” he said. “His plays remind me of the best plays by Edward Albee and Arthur Miller. He deals with conflicts between family members and talks about loyalty, politics and forgiveness.”

Four of the five actors who are cast in the show – Paul Blott, Joanne Camp, Jacqueline Reid and Laurie Thomas – have worked with Lazier in previous Albuquerque productions. “Working with James Wagner, who plays the part of Brooke’s brother Trip, is new for me,” Lazier said.

The key to making “Other Desert Cities” successful, he added, is helping the actors to communicate emotions in effective ways.

“This play requires a deep honesty from the actors,” he said. “You can’t fake the emotions. The audience has to feel the inner workings of emotions in the actors.”

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