By Bridgette M. Redman
“The Smell of the Kill” is a revenge fantasy aimed right at anyone who has ever felt mortally wronged in a marriage.
Director Kristine Thatcher populates the Williamston Theater stage with three vibrant champions who try to seduce the audience into laughing the play’s husbands to death. Laura Croff, Teri Clark Linden and Emily Sutton Smith are an equal, energetic ensemble who embody the archetypes of women who have been driven off-kilter by the misdeeds of their husbands.
Opening mid-narrative as the three women clean up after dinner in a beautifully appointed kitchen, the pace never slackens as the three almost-friends who gather monthly for the sake of their spouses reveal their frustrations.
Nicky (Sutton-Smith) vocalizes her anger most easily, perhaps because the wrong she suffers has been published in the newspaper. Molly’s (Linden) complaint is shown long before it is revealed, while Debra (Croff) keeps up a facade of ignorance even while the audience learns of her husband’s perfidy.
The 90-minute show eliminates the intermission, allowing Thatcher to expertly control the pace that keeps audiences enthralled with the interactions and personalities of the women. The women are not having a coffee klatch or a whiny bitchfest. Instead, playwright Michele Lowe creates situations in which superficially-attached women are forced to reveal more than they desire and to reluctantly connect in new ways.
In a play that strips away clothing along with the darker parts of the soul, the three actors make full use of a range of emotions, physicality and humor in highly demanding, nearly flawless performances. Linden intrigues with her seeming sweetness and ditzy niceness. She employs some priceless facial work, consistently displaying the facade while her true feelings peep through.
While both Sutton-Smith and Croff excel in their roles, it seemed amiss that there was not a greater differentiation between their characters. Croff’s words emitted energetic sparks, much as she describes Sutton-Smith’s character of speaking while denying it in herself. Likewise, Croff seemed more of the sophisticate that Debra so bitterly accuses Nicky of being. While Thatcher may have intended the audience to see early on the self-deception that each woman engages in, it does further isolate Molly instead of creating the more balanced tripod of three distinct personalities pulled together by a common need.
“The Smell of the Kill” is an unusual offering for Williamston, not because the humor is dark, but because the people in it would more comfortably occupy the set of “Desperate Housewives” than of any of the homes surrounding the theater. They are figments of dark imagination rather than people designed to sympathize with or connect to. They aren’t our mothers, our sisters, and you sure as hell better hope they’re not your wives.
Yet, while the characters may not be those you’d expect to meet in local living rooms or department stores, they aren’t strangers either. They are the women that people think they want to be when they have been pushed to their limits. They are the fantasies that dance through the minds of anyone who has ever been wronged (and who on this planet has not been?). They aren’t the dark phantoms of nightmares; they are the gleeful poltergeists who tickle their victims into laughing at their evil tricks.
‘The Smell of the Kill’
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston. Thursday-Sunday through March 7. $18-$24. 517-655-7469. http://www.williamstontheatre.org
Then at Tipping Point Theatre, 361 E Cady St, Northville. Thursday-Sunday, March 18 through April 15. $25-$27. 248-347-0003. http://www.tippingpointtheatre.com