Friday, February 19, 2010

Hey Joe, Where You Going...

Theatre Review

Killer Joe
A Play by Tracy Letts
Profiles Theatre, Chicago

Killer Joe was the first play by Tracy Letts--now famous for winning the Tony & Pulitzer for August: Osage County--to be produced. It is also--during its 1993 world premiere production at Evanston's Next Theatre--the first play I ever saw of my own volition (i.e. not with parents, for a class, etc.).

Until last night, I had not seen it again since then, and had not even noticed it ever again being staged, although Wikipedia says its been done in at least 15 countries in 12 languages. I recalled it having a good bit of violence and nudity, and remembered having liked it way back when, but that's all I could have told you about it.

After seeing Profiles Theatre's searing production of it, directed by Steppenwolf's Rick Snyder and starring Darrell W. Cox (he of erstwhile histrionics in many a Profiles production) and a solid cast of five, I still don't know if I can tell you what it's really about. Yes, it's over-the-top in a Tarantinoesque way (though it predates even Natural Born Killers) and eminently watchable, but perhaps in the end--with fake blood, real coleslaw and much else splattered all over the stage--it felt more like a superficial feast for the senses than anything deeply substantive. That, or I just didn't get what Letts was trying to say. But even back then, he had a way with dialogue that was riveting.

So while I gladly give this production and performance @@@@ and do recommend seeing it, particularly with discounted tickets through Goldstar, I think the play itself deserves a 1/2@ less.

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