Sunday, May 4, 2003

Playwright Lowe puts characters
at crossroads

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

"Sometimes you have to stretch an issue to make a point," Michele Lowe laughs.Smell of the Kill, playwright Lowe's black comedy of sisterhood and dark doings in the burbs among a trio of fed-up, middle-aged wives, is at Playhouse in the Park (and waiting in the wings in theaters in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Greece as well as across the United States).

Who wouldn't be fed-up? These gals are married to an embezzler, a chronic adulterer and a wimp who's lost interest in sex. And now that the monthly dinner is over, they're stuck in the kitchen on clean-up duty while the never-seen but occasionally heard hubbies are doing whatever it is guys do while women work.

"I love men!" Lowe laughingly protests. "I have the greatest husband! This isn't about the men!"

Which brings us back to that little stretching she's doing.

"If women come together, they can effect change," she says passionately by phone from her home in Long Island. "I believe that wholeheartedly."

And these women do.

Smell of the Kill has its inspiration in Lowe's childhood. "My parents used to have this thing. My father and his fraternity brothers would get together once a month, and the men would stay in the dining room playing cards. Fifty years later, they're still doing it."

But from the time she was a little girl, she found herself wondering, "What were the men talking about? What were the women talking about?"

In Smell of the Kill, "after all this time, the women still don't know anything about each other, really" until the eventful evening of the play's action.

"It's important for women to be presented in this time, in this culture. We're so over the Mommy Track. The world isn't about how to balance anymore. It's about how to live.

"How to move forward and still resolve the past. How to get out of a relationship because it isn't very good anymore. How to be a single parent care-giver. It's really hard."

She's apparently struck a chord, because Lowe reports that women come up to her and say, "I was that woman!"

These days, Lowe's word processor is smoking with new projects. Backsliding in the Promised Land, about two Holocaust survivors, has just been done by Syracuse Stage. In October, Pittsburgh's City Theater will debut String of Pearls. "It's a woman's journey as she searches for a necklace that's lost, stolen, sold, ground-up..."

She also has three screenplays "in place." We'll be hearing more about that "soon."

Her current project is a play about stolen art during the Nazi regime, and if you're starting to identify a pattern, yes, she loves history, particularly WWII.

Something else you'll find in her writing is "people at a crossroads, people who know they're stuck and in the process find they can move forward."

She does have one final thought. "We have to get rid of women making dinner."

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