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‘Smell of the Kill’ delivers satisfaction of Haagen Dazs chocolate dark chocolate ice cream bar


Tera 01Sometimes you just click with another person and become fast friends. At other times, you simply have nothing in common and never become more than mere acquaintances. Then there are those rare occasions when catastrophic events bind you to veritable strangers in ways you never dreamed possible. This is what happens to Nicky, Molly and Debra in Michele Lowe’s murderously funny The Smell of the Kill, which opened this past Friday at Laboratory Theater.

The women take turns hosting a monthly dinner party at the behest of their husbands, who went to college together. But the wives Smell of the Kill Promo 03Lmerely tolerate each other, projecting carefully cultivated facades and personas designed to keep each other emotionally at bay. But pretense gives way to authenticity when Nicky overhears Molly gossiping with Debra about Nicky’s husband, who’s been indicted for embezzling $7 million. He’s facing lengthy incarceration and loss of their big, ostentatious mansion, and he’s insisting that Nicky quit her job so that he can Smell of the Kill Promo 04Lappropriate her profit-sharing money to pay the expensive lawyers who are handling his defense.

It turns out that Molly and Debra are equally conflicted and unhappy, and much of the fun inherent in this sprightly production emanates from watching the reaction of the other two women as each reveals her story in tantalizing dribs and drabs.

STera 06ince the play’s release in 2002, reviewers have derided the plot as trite, contrived, and ridiculously unrealistic. One critic even accused the playwright of “reverse misogyny.” If you allow yourself to get past that by suspending disbelief, what you’ll discover is a thoroughly entertaining, albeit twisted, female buddy story in the tradition of Waiting to Exhale and Fried Green Tomatoes.

It takes exceptional acting to pull off the feat, but under the enlightened direction of Carmen Crussard, Lucy Sundby (Nicky), Jessica Walck (Molly) and Tera Nicole Miller (Debra) work this angle to perfection. They are simply superb and make their Smell of the Kill Promo 05Linteractions with one another so seamless and believable that you’ll feel as if you are in Nicky’s kitchen participating in their macabre deliberations rather than sitting in the cheap seats as a mere voyeur.

The action is brisk and relentless, the dialogue snappy and tart. There’s a realistic fight scene, bondage and gun play. In addition to engaging with each other and their off-stage, never-to-be-seen husbands, all three women interact with a plethora of props, including glass after glass of merlot and cabernet. All the while, the audience is caught in a cross-fire of pithy one-liners delivered with the speed, Smell of the Kill Promo 06Laccuracy and ferocity of a Venus Williams serve.

The show’s swift pacing is made possible by the cast’s willingness to put the good of the ensemble ahead of their individual performances. It’s clear that Sundby, Walck and Miller enjoy considerable personal chemistry, but they have the restraint and talent to allow their on-stage cohesion to evolve organically as events unfold. That’s a reflection on Crussard, as well.

Smell of the Kill Promo 07LAnd yet, the individual performances given in The Smell of the Kill are noteworthy.

Sundby’s character is a stand-in for every woman who’s been asked, nay required, to subjugate her own career and ambitions for the good (or ego) of her husband. Sundby plays her as a smart, forceful woman who isn’t about to let any man – or woman – stand in the way of what she wants. It’s small wonder. Her character is a no-nonsense book editor!

WSmell of the Kill Promo 09Lalck is the catalyst for most of the action and the glue that ultimately binds frenemies Nicky and Debra together long enough to discover they have more in common than either would like to admit. Other directors and actors have crafted the role of Molly as a ditzy, one-dimensional caricature in the nature of Katie in Blond Ambition or Three Company’s dumb blonde poster child Crissy Snow. But beneath Molly’s blissful simplicity lurks a woman Smell of the Kill Promo 10Lwith all the cunning and resourcefulness of billionaire Jessica Simpson and health and hormone guru Suzanne Somers. It’s a role that mandates versatility, which Walck handles with aplomb. This woman can really act.

As can Tera Nicole Miller. Her character is actually the most complex of the three. She projects utter devotion to her grab-and-grope husband, who takes credit for all the real estate sales she negotiates while he’s schmoozing (and who knows what Smell of the Kill Promo 11Lelse) with the buyers’ wives. But you can’t fix a problem you won’t acknowledge, and it takes a gun-toting mamma and a woman who knows a thing or two about tying knots to get Debra to face the realities of her life and marriage. Miller’s is, therefore, the most complete and nuanced of the three performances.

A shout out also goes to Michael Eyth for set design along with erectors Patrick Erhardt, Terry Tincher, Jim Hinman and Janet Vince, who have created a Smell of the Kill Promo 12Lposh, upscale kitchen that looks and feels exactly as you’d expect in a big, ponderous mansion built in the late ‘90s. And as with other Lab productions, Rosie DeLeon doesn’t get enough credit for lighting design and sound.

The Sound of the Kill delivers the satisfaction of a chocolate dark chocolate Haagen Dazs ice cream bar. There are big laughs, to be sure. But there’s a concurrent dramatic energy which Smell of the Kill Promo 02Ltinges the laughs with bittersweet melancholy. These are desperate women facing desperate times who are desperately in need of lots of wine and chocolate, vanilla and Rocky Road.

August 2, 2017.


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