In “The Smell of Kill”, Michele Lowe has given life to (pun intended) the “meaty” topic of unhappy marriages, where one spouse wishes the other to be dead or sometimes fantasizes killing the spouse. Director Virginia Drake has done a phenomenal job in alternating between comic relief and nervous tension, as three unhappy wives deny, discuss, and eventually unite in denigrating their husbands.
Nicki’s husband Jay has committed some legal hanky-panky and is likely to be indicted and to serve time. Nicki is bitter and edgy from the very beginning and tells the other wives, “Jay is not going to prison, because I am going to kill him first”. Debra’s husband is having an affair with another woman, though that does not stop him from flirting with his friends’ wives. Debra is in complete denial of her situation, at first. She constantly moralizes about appropriate role for good wife and a mother and looks down upon working women like Nicki. Debra says, “a good mother stays home for the first two years of a child’s life”. Molly is not quite so naïve, as she first comes across. She wants a child but is unlikely to get pregnant by her “asexual” husband. Molly has her own fun from having affairs with other men. Debra tells Molly, she should get a hobby and Molly says, “I got a hobby”.
It is the performance of the three women, Mandy Armes, Diahanna Davidson, and Morgan Allyne Voellger working together with impeccable timing that makes the play interesting. Husbands (played by Jimmy Allan, Frank Swaringen, and Max Tachis) are off stage during the entire play, and only participate through their meaningless comments and selfish commands, alternately demanding dessert, calling out little love messages or pelting golf balls in the kitchen. Needless to say it’s not just the wives who get annoyed and angry. Very quickly the audience joins the wives’ camp. The wives have had enough of these insensitive, selfish, flirtatious men who take little to no responsibility in the relationship. And then a situation arises where the wives are called upon to vote and decide, as Nicki puts it, whether or not they should play God and rescue their husbands from a fatal situation they willingly walked into. Will they? Won’t they?
Ron Gasparinetti has done a marvelous job in scenic design and Tyler Della and Ivette Deltoro has worked beautifully on the props. Immaculately clean kitchen, with skylights (windows towards God), and use of sharp, huge kitchen knife to tack the newspaper clipping of Jay’s antics on the kitchen’s broom closet, seems like a perfect setting. Amy Zsadanyi-Yale has done a fabulous work with the costumes, including the blah borrowed top, sexy lingerie, and blood soaked plaid shirt, that speak to the raucous, the risqué, and the gory aspect of the storyline.
Comedy plays are infrequent and often difficult to enact. So this is a rare chance to see a tragic/ comedy superbly executed with precision timing. The Smell of Kill is running at City Lights Theater in San Jose till February 23, 2014. For tickets, go to http://www.cltc.org.