Sunday, May 4, 2003

'Smell of the Kill' biting suburb satire

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Playhouse in the Park is serving up a trifle to end the 2002-03 Marx Theatre season. Oh, would you like a little strychnine with that?

Smell of the Kill is a black comedy of the high-end burbs, centered around three wives who have plenty more on their plates than the deer Nicky's husband likes to shoot and serve.

It's not so bad that the gals are trapped in the kitchen for clean-up duty after dinner, banned from the dining room where the guys are enjoying putting practice. The kitchen, after all, would pass as a 4-star hotel in some neighborhoods.

It's the last word in HGTV industrial chic (with a skylight no less!) accented in - do my eyes mistake me, or is that blood red? The House Beautiful centerfold design is by Klara Zieglerova and Thomas Hase.

These women are social acquaintances rather than friends. They're part of a group of five married couples (two dropped out on this evening) who get together once a month based on their hubbies' frat brother status from way back.

Mostly the wives fill empty air with empty chat till it's time to go home. Usually they wait for somebody to leave the room so they can update gossip. There are many of these moments to provide some of the funniest bits in Kill.

Tonight, though, is special.

Nicky (Nancy Hess) has it all - a million-dollar house, a baby, a great job and a boor of a husband who's just been indicted for embezzling, and everything they own is in his name. She's mad as hell - but has she reached the point where she's not going to take it anymore?

Molly (Cheryl Gaysunas) is the dingbat rich girl who is married to a guy who, if he weren't her husband, would be arrested for stalking. She has wanted a baby for 12 years. He's cut out sex to make sure she doesn't get one. Molly may be a dizzy, partly because her marriage has driven her to heavy tippling, but she knows a husband isn't the only way to get a baby.

Debra (Suzanne Grodner) is the fly in their ointment. Her husband is womanizing and belligerent. (We never see the men, but we hear them through the door and it doesn't take long to get their numbers.) Debra is species doormat in-denialus.

Grodner communicates that stretched wire sense that lets us know - along with all the vitriol seeping out - that there's a volcano deep down inside Debra, and when she blows ... boom.

Playwright Michele Lowe's tongue is firmly in cheek as she explores girlfriend bonding and empowerment in extremis.

The actresses are all dandy, and I'll wager the ladies in the audience, at least, will find strong similarities between the characters on stage and at least one girlfriend.

Nicky, Molly and Debra are faultlessly dressed for character and comedy by Gordon DeVinney.

Smell of the Kill runs a brisk 75 minutes. The action is filled with nifty unexpected turns. The dialogue snaps along. Director Ed Stern makes it all feel like a vacation from what ails you.

The Smell of the Kill runs through May 30 at Playhouse in the Park's Marx Theatre, Eden Park, 421-3888.


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