Friday, March 13, 2009

Killer Joe

by Pa Rock
Drama Critic

Someday when I look back on my years in the Valley of Hell and try to identify the cultural highlights, I'm certain that tonight will have made the list. This evening I drove to the heart of Phoenix (100 East McDowell) to see the Nearly Naked Theatre's production of Killer Joe, a dramatic event that could have easily been subtitled White Trash on the Rampage!

This was the first production of the Nearly Naked Theatre that I had witnessed (and, yes, witnessed is the appropriate verb!), and it turned out to be quite an experience. The organization is in its tenth season and prides itself on provocative productions. The name, Nearly Naked,is somewhat of a misnomer, because there was no nearly to it. Of the five cast members, one man and one woman roamed around the stage in their altogether, two others qualified as nearly naked, and the fifth spent quite a bit of time shirtless. The wardrobe manager had an easy ride with this show!

But in case the nudity wasn't gratuitous enough, there was an ample serving of real language - the kind you might hear in a truck stop restroom. Skin for the eyes, profanity for the ears, and, oh yes, one of the characters smoking a joint on stage that provided olfactory stimulation for the audience. (It smelled like the real deal, but surely they were using the medicinal variety!) This play had it all!

The plot was somewhat sweet and syrupy. The grown son, a small-time drug dealer, owed money to some hoods who were going to take it out of his hide. He came up with a plan to have his mother killed so that he could get a share of her insurance money. His dad (mom's ex) agrees to the scheme, and together they bring a hit man into dad's household. Problems arise when the hit man, Killer Joe, wants his money up front. The money won't be available until mom is in the ground and the insurance company pays off. Joe finally agrees to do the job on spec, but he demands a retainer, the family's 20-year-old virgin daughter. After that it starts to get complicated. (See, I told you it was a sweet story!)

I could go on and describe the scene where the dad's new tramp wife was forced to perform fellatio on a Colonel Sanders drumstick, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.

In spite of the raunchiness, or perhaps because of it, Killer Joe made for an entertaining evening. The cast had fun with it, and so did the audience.

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