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Killer Joe

a Dark Comedy/Musical
by Tracy Letts

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 1049

SHOWING : September 09, 2004 - October 16, 2004



Hold onto your hats (and your chaps!) for this x-rated comedy set in
the double-wide heartland of Texas! Chris Smith is down on his luck
and finds himself on the run from outlaws looking to collect. Enter
Killer Joe Cooper, a full-time cop, part-time assassin who might have
just the right tools to pull Chris up by his bootstraps—for the right
price, that is.

Cast Jasson Minadakis
Chris Smith Nick Rhoton
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Trailer Trash Chic
by Dedalus
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
From “Married With Children” to Jerry Springer, “Trailer Trash” personalities have won a popularity that, to my politically-correctness-fogged vision, seems to exemplify a socially acceptable form of stereotyping. These are not “people like us,” so it is really really easy to laugh at them, feeling so very superior with our classier life styles.

The genius of Tracy Letts’ suspense-comedy “Killer Joe,” wonderfully performed at Actor’s Express, is that it throws all these stereotypes into a cuisinart plot, culling as many laughs and gross-out groans as possible from their exploits, then pulls the rug out from under us, making us see them as real people, with real reactions and mistakes, and a possible evil understructure to all their antics.

The plot is classic Springer – son and father plot a “hit” on father’s ex-wife in order to get their hands om ex-wife’s insurance money. Son and father agree to give daughter/sister to the hit man as a “pre-payment” for “services to be rendered.” Step-Mom complicates matters in a rather surprising manner which won’t be revealed here. All ends in violence and bloodshed and not a little exhilaration. Toss in some very non-gratuitous and affective nudity (both sexes) and a sexual act performed on some fast food, and your left with an experience that feels surprisingly uplifting, considering and tacky and creepy materials from which it is made.

The contrasts that make this stew work are the characters of Joe and Dotty, played by Jeff Portell and Ariel deMan. Joe, the hit man, knows these people for what they are, and, at first, provides a calming and polite sensitivity that grounds the stereotypes of the Smith family. And daughter Dotty, innocent and simple, is another breath of fresh air. She recognizes Joe’s best qualities, the “blackness in his eyes,” and Joe responds to her affection in ways that surprise even him. Their love story infects the sliminess around them with a sweetness that is engaging, erotic, and effective, without being cloying. And when the plot catches up with them, they act in character-true ways that are surprising without seeming contrived.

I also loved the set – if there were an award for set dressing, this would win hands-down. From the sticky-sounding floor and refrigerator, to the tin-foil wrapped television antenna, to the pizza-box-filled refrigerator, everything on the stage is right, telling as much about this family as we want or need to know. The sound, featuring television and radio music accurately placed around the set, as well as outdoor rain, thunder, and dog sounds, heat every note right.

This is one of those rare theatre events that entertains with characters we can laugh at and feel superior to, then actually make us care for them as people. It is one of the best-written, best-cast, best-produced, and best-performed shows you are likely to see this year.

--Brad Rudy (

PS – This month’s “American Theatre” published Tracy Letts’ recent play “The Man From Nebraska.” This script isn’t as “over-the-top” as “Killer Joe,” but it is equally moving, filled with characters who surprise us and push all our little empathy buttons. I look forward to the first Atlanta production of it.



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