Double-wide Indemnity

Killer Joe hits the target at The MAC; nicely furnished Doll's House at SMU

The real star of this play is scenic designer Scott Osborne's authentically, extravagantly ugly set. His cross section of a trailer home looks as if it's been sliced in two by a twister. Shreds of pink insulation peek from the rooftop. The filthy orange shag carpet seems to glow with mildew. In every scene, the boxy TV set, complete with tinfoil-wrapped rabbit ears, blares in the background, airing funny car races, game shows and late-night preaching by the cosmically strange Dr. Gene Scott--a perfect detail.

Killer Joe is killer good.


Funny how seeing two completely disparate plays back to back can bring out the most unlikely similarities. You can't get much further from the drumstick sensibilities of Killer Joethan Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, but by doggies, it turns out the two do have a lot in common. Playing one more weekend at the Greer Garson Theatre at Southern Methodist University (where I teach part time, though not in the theater division) is an elegant-looking but unevenly acted production of the 1879 play, which finds its leading character, goody-two-shoes housewife Nora Helmer, in hock to a money lender who's threatening first blackmail and then murder if she doesn't kick over the dough. Nora flies to pieces trying to keep her dirty secret, which, like a daytime soap plot, emerges on Christmas Day.
The Hole in the Head Gang: Hellgrammite Productions turns this set of trailer trash into damn fine theater.
The Hole in the Head Gang: Hellgrammite Productions turns this set of trailer trash into damn fine theater.

Details

continues at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary through December 13 (no performance November 27). Call 214-953-1622.

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This all-student production, directed by faculty member Rhonda Blair, features especially smooth performances by Sebastian Kadlecik as Nora's stuffy husband, Torvald, Weston Davis as the oily banker who loaned Nora money on the sly and R. Brian Normoyle as Doctor Rank, a dying physician in love with Nora. Only Nora, Kara Torvik, doesn't seem right. Should Nora, one of the great female characters in Western drama, really be played as a bubbleheaded ditz? Torvik is a lovely actress, but her Nora comes across as a bustle-wearing, Norwegian Lucy Ricardo, scheming to cheat her hubby, the doctor and the banker out of a few more dollars for a new hat. She's hysterical, shrieky and too, too silly.

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