The Smith family agrees their mother has to die; she’s a bitch with a fat insurance policy, money they need to realize ill-defined dreams. Brother Chris (Kevin Bigley) knows who they’ll hire: Killer Joe Cooper (Darrell W. Cox), a cop who moonlights in contract killing. They’ll retain his services by offering him the fragile Dottie (Claire Wellin) to keep him entertained.
Cox works Joe’s intimidating tension just right; he’s a homespun predator taken by Dottie’s not-quite-there vulnerability and glaring honesty. Bigley captures the well-intentioned fuck-up Chris, whose best is not good enough. Wellin’s strength surprises everyone when she draws her line in the sand. Somer Benson and Howie Johnson are tragic, white-trash delights in this early work from now-acclaimed playwright Tracy Letts.
The ensemble deserves props for handling the script’s nudity so professionally; it’s not easy to reduce something so personal to the mundane. The actors strip down to emotional nakedness as well; the piece is stronger for it. (Lisa Buscani)
At Profiles Theater, 4147 N. Broadway, (773)549-1815. Through April 11. On April 15, the production moves to the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted, through July 18.