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Texas thriller

Back in 1993, long before he produced hits like "August: Osage County" and "Superior Donuts," the young playwright Tracy Letts put pen to paper to create his first play, "Killer Joe." The piece, a taut thriller in which some unhinged members of a poor Texas family hire a hit man to dispense with one of its members, received critical plaudits upon its debut and in many subsequent revivals across the country.

Tonight, the American Repertory Theatre of Western New York opens its own production of Letts' brash and audacious first work under the direction of ART founder Matthew LaChiusa, who often favors plays set in the American South. The production is a welcome addition to Western New York's theater scene, which, aside from Road Less Traveled Theatre's production of "Superior Donuts" last year, hasn't seen nearly enough of this gifted playwright's work.

"This work is not a warm glass of milk with a nice sugary doughnut," LaChiusa wrote in a release. "This is a three-alarm bowl of chili served with a 16 oz. can of PBR. It's what Letts is all about."

The cast includes Chris Smith, Scott Kaitanowski, Stephanie Bax, David C. Mitchell and Jessica Wegrzyn. Tickets for the production, which runs through May 5 in Buffalo East (1410 Main St.), are $12 to $15. For more information, visit www.artofwny.org or call 884-4858.

-- Colin Dabkowski