“Killer Joe” – Tops in Low Life
Elizabeth Hurd Published: November 5th, 2016
Oklahoma City Theatre Company presents “Killer Joe” as the latest in their new ‘Barely Legal’ season. The season may be ‘live and daring’ but this show is live and depraved. Not for the faint of heart. Tracy Letts is a noted award winning playwright and actor. “Killer Joe” is an early work (1993) that may be a little rough, as in ‘chicken in the rough’ (anybody remember Beverly’s?) but is certainly a tribute to KFC and the Colonel.
There are five characters credited in the program but the central character, Stupidity, is uncredited. Stupidity is pervasive throughout the entire show and every member of this extremely dysfunctional family exhibits reams of deficient thought. Ansel, a divorced father of two children; son, Chris and daughter, Dottie live in a small trailer with Ansel’s second wife, Sharla. Desperate to get money to pay the loan sharks on a sour drug deal, Chris convinces his father and stepmother to conspire in the murder of ex-wife and still mother, Adele. They decide to hire a hit man, Killer Joe Cooper. Killer Joe only moonlights as a hit man, his day job is police detective. This is clearly a recipe for disaster, but it is an original recipe that ensures most family members will end extra crispy.
The play is dark and degenerate, full of language, violence and nudity. These attributes along with stupidity create a perfect storm of disaster that has more shock value than awe. However, performances are quite awesome. Kory Kight-Pagala cast and directed a very talented and brave group on the incredibly detailed and depressing set he designed. He also enlisted the aid of Tonia Sina, Intimacy Consultant, for some extremely difficult and shocking scenes.
Jessica Dixon is a typical trailer trash mama as Sharla, Ansel’s grasping 2nd wife. Josh Irick is a disgusting and degenerate father as Ansel, family patriarch. Levi Crouch is an angry young man and vigorous dolt as Chris, son and heir. Kaylan Ferrell is ethereal and beautiful as Dottie, the simple and innocent virgin. Todd Clark is sinister and scary as Joe Cooper, the canny killer. These five cast members come to life under Kight-Pagala’s expert direction. They are realistic enough to plausibly exist and they are therefore quite frightening. While they are poor they would never be capable of enriching themselves financially or spiritually. They are the dregs of humanity created by the top-notch talent of five daring actors.
Saturday night, November 5th is the final performance in this two week run from Oklahoma City Theatre Company. The Civic Center Music Hall Lower Level is the intimate setting for “Killer Joe” and this example of the ‘Barely Legal’ series bodes well for the quality of upcoming performances. As uncomfortable as they may be to watch, the talent and effort should be appreciated.