Do not bring the kids

Killer Joe

Trust me, you do not want the guy in the cowboy hat driving.

Trust me, you do not want the guy in the cowboy hat driving.

Killer Joe, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday (no Sunday show on April 29); $10-15. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through May 5.

Big Idea Theatre

1616 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 390-9485

Rated 5.0

Killer Joe starts as a dark and droll comedy but slowly slides into a disturbing depth of depravity. It’s not for those with delicate sensibilities. Hell, even those with iron-clad sensibilities may find themselves cringing at some of the most violent moments, as well as empathizing with the couple who stood up and walked out during a particularly unsettling vicious sex scene at Big Idea Theatre’s opening night of playwright Tracy Letts’ murder-for-hire dramedy.

BIT recognizes the challenge this dicey play presents; director Scott Divine describes the company as embracing it “with conflicting emotions of fear, affection and revulsion.” They even post a lobby sign that reads “Contains nudity, profanity, violence, strong adult situations. No children. No refunds.”

That said, this white-trash black comedy is funny, mesmerizing, horrifying and unforgettable, thanks to a total commitment from a talented director, cast and crew. For this strange and alluring play to work, there must be no compromise or hesitation, which—thankfully—everyone associated with this production understands as they leap down this deep and murky rabbit hole with all their guts and gusto.

From the very start, you find yourself laughing even when you know you shouldn’t at this trailer-park family who casually decides to knock off a family member and share in the life-insurance policy. The play opens with Chris (Justin D. Muñoz, combining innocence with ridiculousness) stumbling into the family trailer high on drugs and adrenaline, trying to escape the thugs he owes money. He’s greeted by his quirky family—dad Ansel (Wade Lucas, with not an ounce of physical or emotional shame), stepmother Sharla (a sly, funny Shannon Mahoney) and a sister aptly named Dottie (Kat Wolinski, in a wonderfully nuanced performance).

Despite the apparent lack of any redeeming qualities, you find yourself rooting for this creepy clan as they scheme to hire a police detective who moonlights as a professional hit man: Killer Joe (Rick Eldredge, who channels a blend of Ron Burgundy and a legendary local bounty hunter, and manages to creep, charm and finally sicken the audience).

The cast has no outstanding member because they all rise to the occasion, each bringing a strange pathos to their believably outrageous characters. Combined with a delightfully accurate set and creative lighting and sound, Killer Joe kills, in all aspects, and leaves you shaking your head at what you just saw.