The 16th season of the International Theatre Program at the University of Rochester continues with Killer Joe, an explosive and darkly comic drama by Tracy Letts. The play opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, and runs at 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10, with a matinee at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, in Todd Theatre on the University's River Campus.
Letts, an ensemble member of the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago with actors John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, has developed a significant following as a playwright of edgy, dynamic, and challenging work. He was named a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Man from Nebraska, which also was named one of Time magazine's "Best of 2003." Letts's most current work, Bug, is currently in production at Syracuse Stage.
Echoing the work of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and of playwright Sam Shepard in its exploration of archetypal Americana, Killer Joe is filled with crooked cops, petty criminals, small-time hit men, and illegal deals gone awry. The story of the dysfunctional Smith family, desperately and disastrously trying to organize the murder of one its members for financial gain, provides Letts with a broad, brilliantly comic canvas on which to paint a seedy but meticulous portrait of the dark underside of the American Dream.
Guest director Ian Belton is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group career development grant. Belton's productions have been seen regionally and at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre and have twice been nominated for Drama Desk awards. The Killer Joe design team includes Chicago-based Tracy Otwell, who also worked on last season's A Mouthful of Birds; costume designer Sandra Burns, who earned her master's degree in fine arts from California Institute of the Arts; lighting designer Thomas Dunn; sound designer Phillip Scott Peglow, who is also associate designer on the current Broadway production Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins; and special projects designer Casper Hargreaves, whose work can be seen in Disney's The Lion King.
Tickets for Killer Joe are $10 for the general public, $6 for University of Rochester students, and $8 for senior citizens and University of Rochester faculty, staff, and alumni. They can be reserved on www.rochester.edu/theater or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets can also be purchased at the door one hour prior to the performance.
With adult language, content, and nudity, Killer Joe is recommended for mature audiences only.