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Fun With Dick And Perry

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Bitter Possum Productions, at the Famous Door Theatre.

Fun? The cold-blooded sociopathic murderers of the Clutter family who, hoping to grab $200,000, ended up with $40, a radio, and binoculars? And later, death by hanging? Happily, Charles Pike's new work, which he also directs, is less flippant than its title. Like Truman Capote before him, Pike tries to probe the psyches of these natural-born Kansas killers hell-bent on a "foolproof crime."

Played with unexpected dignity by Whitney Spurgeon, Perry Smith is the sad-sack follower who feels he has to prove his toughness to the thug he met in the pen. Equally racist and sexist but better-looking is Dick Hickock--a scary, leering Michael Childers--as the remorseless misfit who can't manage money or morals. Pike's dialogue presents credibility problems, however: Dick sounds alternately like a sadistic Gomer Pyle ("I'm so hungry I could eat bacon off a pig's ass") and a physics major ("Will you relax? Your ass will implode"). One moment they sound like the punks in Dumb and Dumber, the next they're trendy coffeehouse habitues.

Pike's intention is less to reconstruct the crime, more to re-create the criminals. They're not, he argues, "visions of evil" but "two guys who can't find a way to live that won't get them killed." But that's not the conclusion you take away from this picture of casual cruelty. If In Cold Blood was a better book than these scumbags deserved, a less complex portrait like Fun With Dick and Perry proves that our fascination with life snuffers is not its own reward. Still, this is absorbing tabloid theater. (Marring the sharp work is the backdrop, Famous Door's set for Una Pooka--hardly fitting here.)

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