Review “Killer Joe”: Killer Drama!
Profile Theatre presents
By Tracy Letts
Directed by Rick Snyder
Thru February 28th
Guess who’s coming to dinner? The guy we hired to kill mom! Profiles Theatre presents Killer Joe. Penned by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts, Killer Joe is the story of a white trash family hiring a killer to collect on insurance money. Dining on K-Fried Chicken around the kitchen table, this family is a reality television producer’s wet dream. Drug selling son. Skanky step mom. Spineless dad. Gun-for-hire police detective. Tracy Letts, creates a band of immoral and flawed characters that are all connected to Dottie, a dimwitted innocent girl. She is the touchstone to redemption! But who should be saved and who should die? Only Dottie knows.
The cast is fantastic under the direction of Rick Snyder! A combo of Snyder and Tracy Letts’ influence, this ensemble play has showcase moments for each of them. With a controlled, slow-paced drawl, Darrell Cox (Killer Joe) laughs wickedly telling a burning genitalia story. In another scene, he bumbles through an awkward first date. With sweet simplicity, Claire Wellen (Dottie) describes her nonexistent boyfriend from childhood and later asks Joe how many people he has killed. Coked up, Kevin Bigley (Chris) delivers a fast paced rabbit farming monologue. Somer Benson (Sharla) is full-on scheming whore screaming her insights to anyone who will listen. With limited lines, Howie Johnson (Ansel) still manages to say a lot with well-placed physical gestures and a vacant facial expression.
The costumes (Darcy McGill) or lack of them effectively define the characters. Leopard thong, dingy white briefs, long leather coat, unzipped mechanics’ onesie, the chosen attire gives an identity glimpse. Dressed to repress, Dottie is primarily clad in an oversize sweatshirt. But it’s not just the clothes that make the trailer trash, unclothed tells a story too. In a particularly powerful scene, Dottie disrobes and then dresses. Sharla answers the door in the middle of the night in just a mini tank top. Her explanation of the immodest choice is “I didn’t know who was at the door.” A fully naked Killer Joe (ooh la la!) attacks a night intruder. Nudity is used to show both vulnerability and confidence. (On his Wikipedia page, Tracy Letts’ mother says, “Everybody in Tracy’s stories gets naked or dead.”)
In any show about a killer, the violence is anticipated. In Killer Joe, it’s choreographed to perfection. R&D Choreography designed the aggressive scenes. In the Profiles’ confines, the audience is uncomfortably close to the hostility. At one point, a female cast member is being brutally choked then forced to give a makeshift blow job. It’s vicious and real! That also describes the fake dog standing guard at the trailer door (somewhere backstage). Sporadic barking before, during, during intermission… is a little too real and annoying! My other audio complaint is the radio and television sound. An interesting mood enhancer, it’s sometimes too loud to hear the dialogue. Call me old fashion, I want to hear the dimwitted girl’s blessing at the white trash family’s supper.
Trying to get comfortable in his chair, James calls the show: a Super, Springer Smackdown!
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Pre-show we dined at Thai Aroma (4142 N. Broadway). The BYOB restaurant is directly across from the theatre. We start out with crab ragoon and tempura veggie appetizers. If not a killer meal, the portions are huge. Even though we delayed ordering our entrees until after the arrival of the appetizers, my duck pad thai arrives within minutes. We end up juggling four plates of food. Needless to say, the service is overly efficient! We both end up with leftovers to-go for $36 (with tip). Being a little white trash, we stow our stash in the mini van before the show.
Photograph by Wayne Karl