Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Killer Joe

By Tracy LettsKiller joe by tracy letts

Directed by Rick Snyder

At Profiles Theatre

Shocking, violent and deeply humorous trailer park trash story a wild night of theatre

Profiles Theatre knows to mount visceral, gritty, and sensual in-your-face theatre. They have mounted a riveting and intense remount of Tracy Letts 1991  drama, Killer Joe.  This is a violent, gun-shooting show with loads of nudity, sexual situations in a compelling show  for lovers of raw Chicago-style theatre. It is a ‘must see’ drama that has realistic and flawed characters seemingly right out of the Jerry Springer show. Tracy Letts’ first play, Killer Joe, was an immediate cult hit in Chicago, New York and Edinburgh in 1993.

Killer joe by tracy letts

Killer Joe features the Smith family–a collection of dim-witted greedy Texas losers who plan to have their estranged mother killed in order to collect on her life insurance that is  willed to Dottie Smith (Claire Wellin) the semi-retarded young daughter. Chris Smith (Kevin Bigley), the whacked-out 22 year old owes $6k to drug dealers and he is desperate to hatch the murder plot so he learns that a Dallas police detective is also a killer for hire.  The Smith’s hire Killer Joe Cooper (Darrel W. Cox in an eerily strong performance) to do the deed.

The Smith’s are unable to pay Joe upfront so he takes Dottie as a retainer until the insurance is paid. Once Joe moves in to the trailer, the Smith’s plan quickly unravels as it spins into complete mayhem.  Darrell W. Cox plays Killer Joe with an understated politeness that moves into an increasing intensity that can become an explosion of anger if provoked. Cox commands the stage and rivets fear, charisma, and control in a marvelously nuanced and complex performance.

Killer joe by tracy letts

The show’s action is filled with dark humor and blunt sexuality as it depicts how rural white trash plot to survive.  The mysterious Dottie Smith was played with subtlety and restraint by newcomer Claire Wellin.  Director Rick Snyder has the action moving swiftly and he used TV programs to underscore and shape the life of these socially inept losers.  Be warned Killer Joe has full frontal nudity, violence and bloody scenes. It is a breathtaking raw and emotionally shocking drama.  Profiles Theatre has an intense potboiler well worth seeing.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Profiles Theatre,  4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $30 – $35, Fridays & Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.

One thought on “Killer Joe

  • I saw this last week and it is an excellent play which, wastes not a single moment on stage. Killer Joe is well written and well directed with every actor perfectly cast and giving phenomenal performances. This is an intense and shocking story but the humor which, is performed with great timing by the actors, keeps it from becoming overwhelming. It kept me thinking about the plot and the characters for days.

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