Profiles’ ‘Kid Sister’ is disgusting, fascinating and gripping

Allison Torem and Darrell W. Cox in Will Kern’s “Kid Sister.”

Many will compare Profiles Theatre’s world-premiere production of Will Kern’s Kid Sister to Profile’s recent hit, Killer Joe (which I saw and was blown away by). Both feature a trash-strewn living room set and “white trash” families who’ve concocted grand schemes out of last-ditch desperation, which eventually undermine them catastrophically. Killer Joe‘s characters want and expect easy money through a life insurance policy; Kid Sister‘s protagonist, Demi, wants and expects instant fame by way of American Idol. They will do anything to get it. Manipulate, yell, strip, beg, sweat, kill.

However: there’s one significant difference. Where the scheme driving Killer Joe‘s plot seems to have some degree of possible success when introduced to the audience (they might be able to pull of this thing off … if they just were smarter about it), the outcome in Kid Sister is doomed from the start. In no way will this nasty 19 year old girl (played with intense petulant danger by the fantastic Allison Torem, who was the only good thing in Lookingglass’s Trust) reach her destiny by way of the Idol fame machine.

In fact, each player in Kern’s 80-minute tragedy has the cards stacked against them: Demi’s big brother Cassius (Darrell W. Cox, giving a deeply human and slightly melancholy performance) wants to adopt his sister’s newborn, but his recent incarceration prevents him; Demi’s well-meaning boyfriend wants to start a family with her, but she’s disgusted by him; the party girl next door neighbor, Greta (Emily Vajda), is interested in hooking up with Cassius, but Cassius is unwilling to comply. And then there’s Demi, who wants to unload her “bag of sand” baby and hang out with Gwen Stefani by the pool after winning Idol. Even Demi’s loose-canon stalker (Marc Singletary) is doomed in meeting his goal. But you’ll have to see the show to find out how and why.

It’s not that we already know where this is all going; it’s seeing how it all comes crashing down around them that’s sad, disgusting, fascinating and gripping.

Director Joe Jahraus keeps the pace taught and authentic. The acting is outstanding. It also helps that Profiles 50-seat space is like a shoebox — the only way out to the lobby is through the front door of the living room set. We’re trapped, forced to watch this white trash tragedy unfold.

“Kid Sister” plays through Dec.19 at Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway. More info here >

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