I really liked this play, there is a really good monologue from Dottie that can be used if you are looking for material. The characters in the play are really well developed. The crazy sister that doesn't know any better who is glossed over from childhood abuse, a money hungry son, a stupid father, a mastermind killer...etc. This play does have a lot of violence but I thought it was really well put together. This is the first Letts piece I have read, and I plan to read Bug next.
If you want to read a play you will remember, or are looking for good fight material, this is your play
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Killer Joe is a fantastic story of betrayal among family. When Chris Smith and his father Ansel put out a hit on Ansel's ex-wife, Adele, they become acquainted with a force to be reckoned with: Killer Joe Cooper. Cop by day, hitman by night, Cooper is a businessman who demands protocol be followed. So when the Smiths cannot put up the money required to get rid of Adele, they're forced to give up Chris' virginal sister Dottie as a retainer to Joe.
It's a play not for the faint of heart. Profanity and sexuality looms in every scene, but if you can take it, you'll find yourself pleasantly intrigued by the trailer trash Smith family. It's a wonderful microcosm of American culture in the vein of a Coen Brothers film. There is special attention to be paid to the unfortunate daughter, Dottie, whose tendency to spit out seemingly irrelevant phrases during sleepwalks or trances adds an extra element to the story. She speaks of "pure love" in a realm deprived of any sort of love at all.
Killer Joe will keep you turning the pages until the incredible conclusion. Every character is wonderfully developed in a way that any actor would have their work cut out for them in any of the roles. It's a delicate play to direct as any misstep could result in an insulting parody of trailer dwelling folk, but done right, this play has the power to chill, thrill, and change whoever is a part of it.
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As a huge fan of "Bug" I was excited to see what else Mr. Letts had up his sleeve when I heard a number of good things about "Killer Joe." Unfortunately, I was incredibly put off by this play. A small time drug dealer, Chris, owes an upper echelon dealer $6 grand, so he talks his dad (Ansel) into the idea of hiring a hit man (Killer Joe) to take out Chris's mother (Ansel's ex) so they'll get her life insurance money. But since Chris can't pay up front, he offers his 12 year old sister as a sex-slave/retainer until he can get the insurance money and pay Joe. If that isn't enough, toward the end of the play, Joe, in an attempt to assert his dominance over the family, rapes Chris's step-mother in the throat in front of the whole family.
I don't know who considers this art. And I'm AMAZED that the other person who reviewed this called it "beautiful." I'm fine with edgy theater, but there is a difference between something that plays on the edge and something that crosses the line. I don't know if this play is trying to reach for anything deeper but all I got out of it is, "Look at this filthy mess." I really wish there was some kind of redeeming factor, but the violence and abuse that no one even tries to stop and is, in fact, set in motion by people against their own blood, is unforgivable. Mr. Letts does have a way with dialogue, but the content of the play negates any credit I would give him. "Killer Joe" is ghastly, disgusting and completely unentertaining.
I had the recent misfortune of watching William Friedkin's filmed version of this play. The storytelling is shrill, adolescent, and contrived. The plotting is creakier than the creakiest B-movie Film Noir plot. There is not one likeable, intelligent, or interesting character in the play. The Killer character is directly borrowed(or stolen) from Jim Thompson, but he has none of that grand existential menace that Thompson could so effortlessly put into his sleazy psycho characters. The sexual shaming scene just doesn't work, not even with A-list actors giving it their all. It's just ugly and stupid and goes on too long. What a shame that a fine actress like Gina Gershon cannot find better paying roles. This play is like something a mixed-up 18 year old kid wrote for his first playwriting workshop at a state college. I don't know any of Letts's other work, and I probably shouldn't have started here. But I can't believe that anyone who wrote something this awful, small, and cheap could ever have written anything that won national awards for literature and theatre. The worst crime here is the way the author condescends to his characters. These aren't people. They're boutique white trash, deliberately drawn to be as stupid and petty as possible. If these characters were black, latino, or native indian, the author would be branded a racist. I want my time back! I want someone to whack that plummy pedantic douche Friedkin across the face with a dead bluefish, or a sack of wet horseS***. Seriously, folks. It's that bad.