It was just announced that Orlando Bloom will star as the title character in a London revival of Tracy Letts’ 1993 play Killer Joe.
Though I never like to judge a production before I actually see it, I fully endorse two components of this theatrical outing, regardless of its ultimate quality:
It continues Orlando’s Bloom relatively-recent attempts to radically alter his image from his squeaky-clean and incredibly lucrative Legolas/Will Turner Hollywood breakthroughs; his last onstage excursion stateside was Romeo and Juliet on Broadway, which obviously wasn’t the ticket because he was still playing the boyish heartthrob. If you’ve missed out on this career swerve, start with his onscreen jaunts in Digging for Fire (available on Netflix!) and Tour de Pharmacy (available on HBOGO/NOW!).
But more importantly, I support any and all reexaminations of Tracy Letts’ pre-August: Osage County plays. Too many members of the theatre literati think he burst onto the scene with his Pulitzer and Tony-winning claim-to-fame, but he had an illustrious career downtown (and especially in Chicago) before the Weston family yelled their way into our hearts. Plus, the general public definitely knows him more as an actor than a writer (“Lady Bird’s Dad from Homeland”), which is a shame. But even amongst those in the know, I fear he’s not properly heralded as one of THE renaissance talents of his generation, particularly when he’s behind the computer and not on stage (or on camera).
Like…is he possibly considered a one-hit wonder?
Even worse: How many people sincerely believe that hit is overrated and doesn’t deserve to be one of American Drama’s 21st century contributions to the canon?
What didn’t help: the woefully-directed film adaptation, which had no idea how to reckon with translating Letts’ inherently theatrical vernacular — by design, it’s a riff on the classic living room family drama for chrissakes — from stage to screen.
What better way to reinforce his legacy than by revisiting the early kernels of his brilliance.
So after this revival comes to New York City, someone needs to step up and produce Bug next. If you’re not familiar with either, William Friedkin (he of The Exorcist and The French Connection lore) directed two sufficiently cinematically-evocative adaptations, both starring Michael Shannon. True story: Shannon and Letts came up together in the Chicago theatre scene, and the latter’s writing very much reflects the former’s signature frenzied passion.
Let’s hope Orlando Bloom can channel that same energy…