Tracy Letts is a genius.
There was a last-minute deal the other day on tickets to Killer Joe and, having loved August: Osage County and, well ... respected and enjoyed most of Bug, I had to see this one. It was twisted and violent and graphic and profane and hilarious. I loved it. The dialogue, the characters, the story.
One of the things I love in a play or a movie is when one character nervously chatters away while the person they're talking to just stands or sits there in stony silence. You see it more often on stage, I suppose, because it's not quite "real." In real life, very few people have the discipline not to talk in that situation. It's just human nature to want to fill the vacuum with something, anything to relieve the squirmy awkwardness.
Except for reporters. They're pretty good at it. They know the more they shut up the more you'll spill your guts and, at best, say something truthful and, at second best, something stupid. (SO glad I was a press secretary in the pre-Interent era!)
I once saw a night of Neil LaBute short plays that used this convention and even wrote one like that myself, but it's hard to pull off without being gimmicky. Letts does it well, and apparently a lot. Here and at the top of Osage County and, as I've heard, in Man From Nebraska. Which is another one I need to see.
I see so many show that are just ... well, not as good, let's say. (Which is understandable since they're not all written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights.) So it's great once in a while to be in the theater and be absolutely gripped every moment.