Review "Killer Joe": Killer Drama Moves To Royal George!

Profile Theatre presentskiller

Killer Joe

At Royal George Theatre

1641 N. Halsted

By Tracy Letts

Directed by Rick Snyder

Thru July 18th

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Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Cox, Johnson, Wellin (seated), Benson, Bigley

 

This is my 100th review in less than a year.  I decided to celebrate by returning to a 2010 favorite, Tracy Letts' Killer Joe.  Profiles Theatre has moved their regularly sold-out production to the cabaret space at the Royal George. Joe at George is more spacious, comfortable and contained.  Less is more too!  The production has tamed down both the dog barking and violence. In its new locale, Killer Joe continues to entertain as a killer drama! 

Celebrating a milestone with the catalyst and the namer of my blog, Josh says about Killer Joe, "see this show!"  A Dog and Pony Theatre company member, Joshua Volkers will be starring in Dead Letter Office at DCA Theatre starting in June.

POST #51 from January 2010

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 seat, James calls it a "Springer Super Smackdown!"

WAITING FOR THE SHOW in April 2010

With group-on in hand, we dine at Trattoria Gianni, 1711 N. Halsted. A small, but ample, patio space showcasing the Friday setting sun.  It's a feast of tastes with bruchetta to start.  It's four toast points with fresh diced tomatoes in olive oil.  We move onto the the gnocchi and lamb chops.  Potato dumplings of ricotta cheese with fresh mozzarella is delicious.  The lamb chops are dainty and tender.  Trattoria Gianni boasts of being a "family restaurant," which is reenforced during our stay.  Without a word, the owner comes over to our table and picks up a chair.  We assume it's needed somewhere else on the patio.  Josh removes his foot.  The owner puts down the chair and silently leaves.  It's a quirky family-style moment.  Papa Gianni's patio rule, "no feet on the furniture."   

 

Photograph by Wayne Karl

 

 

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  • Curious: How has the violence been tamed down? I was blown away when I saw this several months ago at Profiles Theatre.

  • In reply to robertian:

    Although it seemed tamer to me, it might have been an illusion! At Profiles homecourt, the space is so intimate the violence was uncomfortably close. At Royal George, there is a definite stage and fourth wall. Also, I was prepared and this time unshockable. If you go again, let me know your perspective, Bob!

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