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Review: 'The Smell of the Kill'
When housewives attack: Dinner theater presents screwball comedy

Perhaps the operative phrases have fallen from your very own lips. "Sometimes she just drives me crazy!" Or, "You know, I could just kill him!" While you may have "been there," you probably haven't "done that," unless the tee shirt bears a serial number and you're reading this behind bars. Maybe all you missed was an unexpected opportunity.
That opportunity comes to three wives in Michele Lowe's comedy, "The Smell of the Kill," StarBrite Theatrical Productions' current show at the 14th Street Dinner Theater. The three are thrown together at the monthly get-together of their husbands, whose only common ground seems to be their high school alma mater and an obsession with golf. The wives, though, who seem at first to be stock suburban types, are as one in their unhappiness.
If there's a unifying theme in the three marriages, it's unwelcome change: Successful businesswoman Nicky (Audra Lord) is being forced to leave the work force so her pension money can pay her embezzling hubby's legal bills; Molly (Kathryn Ruth Mayer), who was promised "five children," remains childless – her husband doesn't want the noise; Debra (Rio Scafone) was once business partner to her life partner, but now is relegated to the lonely status of stay-at-home victim of his philandering.
We never meet the three husbands – we know them only as off-stage voices and as disembodied hands clawing through the kitchen doorway like zoo animals trying to grab a meal. When the boys end up collectively in mortal danger, that remote introduction lets us take a less passionate view as the wives try to sort out the pros and cons of whether they're worth saving.
Plays that are as free and easy about topics like murder are often described as "black comedies." "The Smell of the Kill" is not in that category. It's a loud, fast-paced little farce, with a busy, scattershot plot. Subtle it's not. It relies too much on one-liners tossed freely into the mix, rather than seeking the underlying humor in great wickedness.
A lot of situations are contrived; for instance, I don't get why each of the characters shed their "party clothes" and don borrowed gear. If there's psychological significance here, it's too deep for farce. Of course, little farces can be quite funny. The success of this production relies on director Jen Lester guiding her cast around the pitfalls that abound in this script.
"The Smell of the Kill" might remind you of a television sitcom, but certainly not "Everybody Loves Raymond." Face it – of the two possible outcomes of the play, neither is really a "happy ending." But if the classic short story, "The Lady or the Tiger?" is your type of humor, then this might be your type of play.
"Smell of the Kill" Staged Friday and Saturday by StarBrite Theatrical productions at the 14th Street Grille and Ba350 E. 14 Mile Rd., Madison Heights, through April 2. Tickets: $39.50, includes three-course dinner. 248-589-9900.
The Bottom Line: While this superficial farce is squarely aimed at middle-aged women, the situations can be enjoyed by anyone who has "been there" in a faded relationship.

Tidbits: More News from Around Town
JET stages 'Anne Frank' for students; Register for Second City classes

ITEM: It just might be the best kept secret in town.
No, we're not talking about parties at the Manoogian Mansion, but the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company's production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."
For 10 seasons, JET has been presenting Anne Frank-related projects to students throughout the state; this is the eighth time that this particular production has been staged. To date, more than 67,000 students have attended the programs.
The production is part of JET's Campaign Stop Hate, designed to raise awareness of the terrible consequences of hatred and prejudice. The script is a new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman, with direction provided by Evelyn Orbach. Featured in the cast are local professional actors, including Sara Catherine Wolf (Anne Frank), Joseph Haynes (Otto Frank), Nancy Kammer (Edith Frank) and Susan Marie Berg (Mrs. VanDaan).
Teachers whose students attend the production are provided a study guide with extensive background information, plus drama games, discussion questions and activities for both pre and post-show classroom use.
Student school day matinees are scheduled for March 7 – 18 at the Detroit Institute of Arts Theater, located at 5200 Woodward Ave. in Detroit. Tickets are $7.A public performance is slated for Sunday, march 13 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for adults.
For reservations or information, call JET at 248-788-2900.
ITEM: The grand-daddy of improvisation is not only gearing up to open a new season in a new location, it's also prepping for a new semester of training classes.
Second City – Detroit has announced registration for its 2005 spring classes, scheduled to begin March 12 at its new Training Center in Novi. Students enrolled in the program will learn improvisation, acting and writing from one of 15 instructors.
The semester will run eight weeks.
For those who register before March 4, tuition is $200; late registrants (March 7 – 11) will pay $225. Tuition is non-refundable and non-transferable. Complete payment is due upon registration.
For complete information on class offerings and specific dates and times, call 248-348-4448 or go online to