Looking for an antidote to holiday spirit? Try Kid Sister, Kern’s relatively horrifying new “modern dime novel” for the stage. The pulpy narrative follows hot-mess teen mom and American Idol hopeful Demi and her ex-con brother Cassius as they plot an escape from trailer-park Tampa, while Demi’s meth-head baby daddy looms dangerously in the background.
Hidden bodies rot in refrigerators, folks stumble around with knives protruding from their gut, and characters show their love by mixing each other OxyContin cocktails. Staging this material raises tricky questions of tone. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino finessed sound, music and camera angle to produce a precise nightmare-world effect. Profiles’ production—which features overhead wash lighting, music cued from a laptop, and has a live audience—has far less control over effect. On press night, the relentless piece pounded its audience into awed, somewhat grossed-out submission; a smaller, less receptive crowd, though, could easily respond with fidgets and giggles.
Fortunately, Sister satisfies on levels other than pure pulp. Torem shouts her way through every scene, but maintains a captivating, feral honesty. Cox and Singletary deftly convey the needy depths beneath their weapon-wielding veneers.