REVIEW: Kid Sister (Profiles Theatre)


Loud and Louder


Kid Sister - Profiles Theatre Chicago

Profiles Theatre presents
Kid Sister
Written by Will Kern
Directed by
Joe Jahraus
Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway (map)
through Dec 19  |  tickets: $30-$35  |  more info

Review by Catey Sullivan

Holy mother of swamp rat excrescence!  I suppose there are more repetitive, unimaginative and utterly pointless plays out there than Kid Sister, but none come to mind. If we didn’t have 15 years of solid Profiles productions still in memory, their latest would be enough to make us swear off the Broadway Avenue black box. Because taking in Will Kern’s drama of Flo}rida misfits is just about as entertaining as watching a bunch of mean drunks scream at each other for 80 solid minutes. And I’m not talking witty drunks. I’m talking the sort of dumb, depressing drunks whose verbal skills make the repartee on Jerry Springer look positively Coward-esque by comparison.

Kid Sister 2 - Profiles Theatre ChicagoIt’s tough to believe this waste of space, time and good actors is by the same author as Hellcab. One wonders what befell playwright Will Kern in the years between that earlier effort – a whipsmart, insightful comedy peopled with characters of razorsharp definition – and Kid Sister. Hellcab ran for nearly a decade in Chicago, and deservedly so. Kid Sister should not run beyond opening night. And that’s being generous.

On the surface, Kid Sister invites comparisons to Killer Joe (our review ★★★½), Tracy Letts’ thrilling and twisted comedy of matricide, sociopaths and trailer trash (and a huge hit for Profiles earlier this year). Like Killer Joe, Kid Sister’s set is a single room filled with strewn junk food wrappers and booze bottles, furnished by a grimy refrigerator, a battered card table, and a couch that looks like a health hazard. The similarities continue:  There’s a murder involving trash bags, and an ensemble of characters who lack the basic vocabulary to make themselves understood. But where Killer Joe was brilliantly funny and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, Kid Sister is neither. Instead of dialogue, Kid Sister gives us people screaming at each other with all the verbal skills of slow middle schoolers.

Which would be fine if Kern gave us characters worth caring about. He doesn’t. Not for a moment in Kid Sister is there ever a single person to empathize with, and thus not for a moment does it ever feel like anything is at stake. You’re simply watching people act out, moving from one scene of shrieking degradation to another.

Directed by Joe Jahraus, Kid Sister begins with 19-year-old Demi –making the skanky most of both boobs and legs in a tatty denim miniskirt and a dollar-store hoochie mama top – screeching and waving a gun as her sadsack boyfriend Babe comes home from a shift at a local fast food joint. Despite the barrage of c*nts and f*cks and other profanities Demi hurls, the scene isn’t so much shocking as it is boring and repetitive. After the first three or so c-words, the shock turns into tedium.

That tedium isn’t broken up by any gradation in emotion either – Demi (Allison Torem) starts at 10 on the shrill-o-meter and remains there for the duration of the production. It’s a one-note performance: Imagine someone blasting a referee’s whistle for almost an hour and a half – that’s the overall tone of Kid Sister.

But it’s not just the grim, monotonous invective that makes Kid Sister such a non-starter despite its high-decibel attempts to be otherwise. Demi, the character at the center of the plot, is so over-the-top in her delusional self-centeredness that she’s never once believable. I get it – she’s supposed to be up to her eyeballs in denial about the bleak reality of her situation and/or profoundly damaged by years of drugs and abuse. But even taking such limitations into account, it’s simply not believable that a 19-year-old with a functioning brain stem would be so mired in fairy tale-level delusion. Prattling on about how she’s going to be rich, famous and hanging out with Gwen Stefani in six months, Demi sounds like a bratty five-year-old.

Even if Demi’s extreme pipe dreams were believable, Kern gives us no reason to care about them – or her or any one she interacts with. His plot is a series of unfortunate events strung together with all the dramatic tension of so many non-sequitors. When Demi’s stalker (Marc Singletary) finally shows up, it’s a shrugging so-what kind of moment. When Demi’s brother (Darrell Cox) makes an unexpected revelation , it’s about as momentous as a traffic report. When splatter-film-worthy violence erupts in the piece’s denouement, the result isn’t edginess or horrifying – it’s just cheesy gory like a scene out of a bargain basement haunted house. But unlike a low-budget haunted house scene, this Sister is simply no fun.


Kid Sister continues through Dec. 19 at Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway. Tickets are $30 Thursdays, $35 Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays, For ticket information, click here or go to

Kid Sister poster - Profiles Theatre Chicago


Creative Team

Profiles Artistic Director Joe Jahraus is the director of KID SISTER. He most recently directed Profiles’ Midwest Premieres of JAILBAIT by Deirdre O’Connor, THE MERCY SEAT by Neil LaBute, GREAT FALLS by Lee Blessing and THE THUGS by Adam Bock. Joe also directed the Midwest Premieres of Neil LaBute’s IN A DARK DARK HOUSE, SOME GIRL(S) and FAT PIG, for which he received a Jeff Award Nomination for Outstanding Director. Other directing credits for Profiles include the American Premiere of APPLE by Vern Thiessen, the award-winning Midwest Premiere of BLACKBIRD by Adam Rapp, BABYLON GARDENS by Timothy Mason, THE WATER ENGINE and SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO by David Mamet, and the award-winning Midwest Premiere of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE by Jules Fieffer.

The designers are Roger Wykes (set), Mattison Voell (lights), Myron Elliott (costumes), Jeffrey Levin (sound and original music) and the stage manager is Corey Weinberg.


4 Responses

  1. This is an excellent summary of the way I felt about the play when I left–although I would emphasize how poorly written the story is, as well as how bad the dialogue is.
    It was, perhaps, the worst play I ever saw, and certainly the most poorly executed.

  2. As someone who has spent their life in constant pursuit of wild, adult, edgy and dangerous performance, I found “Kid Sister” to be exactly what it was billed as……A Dime Store Pulp Novel The piece moves swiftly through each scene, and the intensity continues to grow as the stakes are raised. I really found this theatrical experience to be riveting and amazing in it’s ability to terrify the audience. One woman actually screamed out loud during the show I attended last weekend. I completely disagree with Catey Sullivan in her her review, and urge interested patrons to grab the bull by the horns and experience the piece for themselves. This type of theatre is either loved of hated because of its grimy and uber-dark characteristics. “Kid Sister” really shines in these realms. I sincerely think that “Kid Sister” is much better theater than “Hellcab”, and if “Kid Sister” were staged at another point in the season, it would not be in such competition with “Killer Joe.” Bottom line is if you are a fan of “Killer Joe,” or any other wild, Dangerous theater, do make it a point to witness this white-trash spectacle, otherwise stay in the LOOP with all the other gltz and glamour hollow productions!

  3. Hello Katz Paganstar –
    I love Killer Joe. I’ve seen it four times – both here and in New York.Kid Sister had not an iota of the character development or dramatic suspense that made Killer Joe so great. Letts crafted a play that was loud, profane, obscene, ultra-violent and absolutely gripping. Kern’s Kid Sister is just loud.

  4. PS Katz Paganstar:
    I don’t think one has to make a choice as far as sticking with “wild Dangerous theater” or the “glamour hollow productions” of the Loop. Such sweeping generalizations are neither accurate nor fair. And it certainly is possible to enjoy the alleged hollowness of performances such as, oh, Rondi Reed in “Wicked”/Cliff Chamberlain in the current minimalist Seagull/the ensemble of In the Heights as well as those “wild Dangerous” shows in the neighborhoods.

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