Killer Joe
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

There is nothing socially redeeming about Marin Theatre’s current production, Killer Joe. Written by Tracy Letts and directed by Lee Sankowich, this dark comedy is reminiscent of the stories and novels of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Conner who both pushed the envelope of comic grotesque to the point where the reader wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be horrified by the characters in their stories.

Like O’Connor’s characters, which have a cartoon like quality that invites us to laugh at them no matter how violent and depraved they become, Letts’ Texas trailer trash characters are also very funny. The problem is that while you’re laughing, you’re looking up over your shoulder waiting for God to strike you down for allowing yourself to be entertained by such a morally apprehensible story.

Adding to the moral confusion is the very moral way the characters talk about murder and other acts of violence that they have committed or are about to commit. Another southern novelist comes to mind. The author Cormac McCarthy, in his novel Child of God, shares Letts’ skill in drawing you into feeling some identity, perhaps even compassion for depraved characters. In McCarthy’s novel, his main character is a mass murderer, yet through his very skillful portrait of this man, you can’t help but feel that he is a “child of god like you or me.” In other words, if the circumstances of our lives had turned out different, we too have this dark side that could send us into a similar downward spiral.

If you haven’t guessed it already, this play is not recommended for everyone. There is nudity, sex, drugs and violence in this production. But the story and the characters are riveting, and you’ll be thinking about it for days after the show. A powerful drama that shakes the very roots of humanity, it’s meant to shock you, to make you rethink how well you control your life.

For tickets or more information call (415) 388-5208 or visit

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