Texas-born country singer Steve Earle is known for his passionate music, his addiction to heroin and cocaine and for kicking his drug habit and finding more creative outlets for his energy (notably the story collection "Doghouse Roses").
Perhaps Earle's own renewal led him to the tale of Karla Faye Tucker, a drug-addicted Texas prostitute who murdered two people with a pickaxe and in 1998 became the first woman executed by the Lone Star State since the Civil War. While in prison, Tucker supposedly discovered the redemptive power of Christianity and became a rallying point for opponents of the death penalty. In his one-act "Karla," Earle, an anti-death-penalty activist, has written 95 cliche-ridden minutes about her journey from sin to salvation.
...Karla's narration allows Earle to re-create and describe events from her past (the trial, the gruesome killings). Even more self-consciously, Earle arranges for Karla to confront the significant players in her life: her brassy prostitute mother...her boyfriend and fellow murderer...their victims, Jerry and Deborah.... These one-dimensional characters, long dead, tell Karla what they think of her.
...Forgiveness, Earle blatantly indicates, comes even to the worst of sinners. Despite the torrent of words and facts, Karla remains little more than a bland, weeping figure. Until the very end, that is. In the production's one truly theatrical moment, Karla plays a tape on which she describes the sexual thrill of hacking her victims to death, and there's a raw ugliness in her voice that no conversion can undo.
Too bad. I'm always pulling for Steve Earle to do well, though I can't really say why.