Austin Theater Review
Keeping your finger on the pulse of Performance Theater in Austin, Texas.
Past Reviews:
Arthuriosis, A Metal Opera
Romeo & Juliet



"Killer Joe"

Review By: Sean Fuentes

A very dark comedy by: Tracy Letts

Extended July 23 -August 8

Tickets get em quick before they are sold out again!

Do you actually ever find love or does love find you? As some sail through the ocean of their lives love pulls them into a situation that is unpredictable and uncontrollable, but ends in a love that is pure. Such is the case with “Killer Joe”, a very dark comedy, written by Tracy Letts and directed by Mark Pickell, of Capital T Theatre. Set in a place that most have either driven by or heard of, a place where a dog named “T-bone” can be seen sitting in a dirt hole sucking on pizza crusts and chicken bones amongst broke down rusty old cars, spilled oil, and beer cans, a place affectionately known as the trailer park. “Killer Joe” is a story about love, but this love, unlike so many other loves, doesn’t come wrapped up in the pretty package with a bright red bow waiting for two love birds to open it up and find that what’s inside is their hearts desire. Oh no no…this love is a love spawn from a womb of lies, deceit, death, and greed.

Kenneth Wayne Bradley plays Killer Joe Cooper a full time detective and a part time assassin who plays the game of murder with a cunning sense of dignity, professionalism and the ruthlessness of a blood starved serial killer. Bradley’s stunning Jekyll and Hyde performance will leave you twisted between the good’ol’boy just doing his job and the face of death who will dismember anything to be compensated for services rendered. Dottie Smith, played by Melissa Recalde, provides the innocence of the play. Dottie is disconnected in a lot of ways, and rightfully so, being almost murdered by her mother as an infant and sexually abused at age 12 she has a lot to forget. Recalde plays Dottie beautifully, moving in and out of reality seamlessly with a grace and style that will keep you emotionally invested in the moment.


Joey Hood plays Chris Smith, a conniving hick and the product of a teenage affair that has been determined to be an “accident” by all parties involved. Chris is the catalyst and the brain trust behind the idea of murdering his mother to claim the “accidental” death money from an insurance policy. Hood brings this character to life with a zest that will make you say to yourself “I don’t like him”, and as well you should, what kind of person plots to have their own mother murdered to collect insurance money, I’ll tell you who.. a hick with no way out. Chris is not alone in his plot to destroy any moral values he has left, he run’s this brilliant idea past his father Ansel Smith, played by Joe Reynolds, and his step mother Sharla Smith, played by Katie DeBuys. It doesn’t take long for Ansel and Sharla to see the silver lining of murdering Ansel’s ex-wife for the cash. Reynolds Ansel is both charming and cowardly as he is the “man of the house” and is “calling the shots”. Reynolds exquisite timing in dropping every punch line will have you bursting out with laugher. Debuys Sharla is sexy, hateful and is your prototypical trailer park prom queen. Debuys brings a clear sense of honest deceit in her depiction of Sharla and will have you feeling sorry for her when the hammer drops.


After the show I had a chance to speak with audience members as well as the actors themselves and the common theme coursing through the air of conversation was the cohesiveness of the cast. Mark Pickell has brought together a group of talented actors and put them in position to give everything they have to their characters, but has directed them in such a way that all complement each other by none giving too much nor too little. “Killer Joe” takes you on a tumultuous thrill ride through the under belly of one of Americas most stereo typed settings and delivers everything from hysterical punch lines to emotionally crippling fight scenes. Some might say that this show is not for everyone, but I disagree, this show is for anyone who believes everyone deserves a chance at love, even from the depths of the trailer park.




July 23 – August 16

Thursday – Saturday 8:00 p.m. Sunday 5:30 p.m.

The City Theatre. 3823 Airport Blvd. – east corner of Airport Blvd. and 38 ½ Street.

Reservations 512-524-2870 or

Tickets $15 - $20. Guaranteed Reserve Seating $25. Students $12. Group discounts available.

Thursdays pay what you can. Visit our website

If its hypocrisy, greed, and seduction you’re looking for this summer, look no further than Moliere’s most famous farce, Tartuffe.  Under the religious cloak of piety, the lecherous, menacing, arch-hypocrite title character schemes to marry his benefactor’s daughter, seduce his wife, then defraud him of all he possesses. Does the scoundrel succeed? Take your seat and find out in this new and exciting adaptation of one of the world’s greatest comedies.  The production runs July 23 – August 16 at The City Theatre. It is directed by Charles P. Stites and features City Theatre company members Wray Crawford, Fiona Rene, D. Heath Thompson, and MacArthur Moore.

I had a chance to catch up with the director of Tartuffe Charles P. Stites for a Q&A session. Check out the interview below.

Q. Why did you decide to direct Tartuffe?

I first became involved in theatre as a teenager, so I have been a voracious play-reader since I was sixteen. I just happened to pick up a copy of Tartuffe during the time when the scandals of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were big news. I was struck by how similar the televangelists were to Tartuffe; I was even more struck by how much Orgon's family in the play reminded me of the Baptists I grew up with. The idea of a modern dress Tartuffe has been kicking around in my head for the last twenty years.

How have you liked working with the group of actors that you have cast for this performance of Tartuffe?

I've been extremely fortunate with the cast I've got. As far as the principals go, I have either seen their work on stage numerous times, or I have worked with them before: I have the utmost respect for my cast mates in this piece. I also have some dedicated ensemble performers who were willing to take non-speaking roles and backstage work in order to be a part of this production. Without people like them, producing a play like this would be impossible..


As a director, this group of artists has been able not only to assimilate all of my ideas, but they have also a substantial number of their own suggestions to the project. Creating the characters of this play has been a truly collaborative process..

Was it challenging to take Moliere's original text and adapt it to modern English?

A. Yes and no. Yes, the process itself was long and arduous.. I got three different English translations of Tartuffe and a few legal pads, sat down at my dining table, and went through the three scripts line-by-line, comparing the work of the three authors, and then deciding what a contemporary man or woman might say instead, editing as I went along. Going that route was slow work, and took me about a month-and-a-half, so that part was a challenge. On the other hand, it was easy putting the play in a present day context. I think it works even better this way. In fact, rather than feeling Tartuffe is a classic story which lends itself to adaptation, I came to think of it as a modern play which just happens to have been written 345 years ago. 

What's next for you after directing and staring in Tartuffe? A little rest maybe?

A. Rest? Hell no! Breaks are for engineers, accountants, and the dead. Artists have to keep working till they drop. Thankfully, Andy Berkovsky has given me more work to do: I am directing Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor for City Theatre, which will go up the weekend before Thanksgiving, and will close the Sunday before Christmas. The piece is an autobiographical play about the time Simon worked on "Sid Caesar's Show of Shows" in the 1950's. The writing team Caesar had for that program was legendary. Among the writers were Neil Simon, of course, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Mel Tolkin (the original writer of "All in the Family"), and Larry Gelbart, (the author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and the creator of the "MASH" TV series). As you can imagine, a play with that much comedy talent as its subject is hilarious. I'm very much looking forward to that project as well.

Q. That is great! Well I want to thank you for participating in this Q&A. And I am looking forward to seeing the show on the 25th of July. Is there anything you would like to add about the Show that we didn't cover, but that you would like every one to know?


A. I just wanted to add that I hope to convey that my conception of Tartuffe is as much about the inner workings of a family as it is a satire of blind faith.

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