KILLER JOE at Magic Theatre


Went to see KILLER JOE tonight. This one seems to be a “love it or hate it” deal around town. The people sitting behind me said, “It just gets better every time I see it.” Meanwhile, an actor friend told me, “I hate the play, I hate the writer, I hate everything about it.”

For me, it was a victim of the expectations game. I saw a production of Tracy Letts’ BUG in New York that I thought was amazing. So I went into this show as excited as you could be. Of course, there was no way the show could have lived up to what I was hoping for.

The production itself is actually pretty good: the actors are compelling (especially Culley Fredericksen, who admittedly has a part written to be compelling, but still, that guy is riveting); the set is cool; the sound design is really nice, with the TV always on and always watching something appropriate to the scene. But I found the script a bit conventional compared to the innovative BUG. Edgy, but not so different from a Tarantino movie or a McDonagh play.

I’ve heard that Letts is the son of two Hollywood screenwriters, and maybe that’s my problem with this one: I like theater that could only be done in a theater. This felt closer to an indie film acted out onstage. A sort of “movies cost too much, so I’ll just put the movie onstage and maybe it’ll get picked up by a studio” kind of thing.

I heard someone in the lobby say it’s been picked up by a studio; maybe that was the idea all along.