2017-08-10 / Arts & Entertainment News

Jack Frost nipping at your nose … and everything else

ARTS COMMENTARY

There’s no hell like being forced to socialize with people you don’t like — unless it’s being married to someone you can’t stand

That’s the fate of Debra, Nicky and Molly in Laboratory Theater’s “The Smell of the Kill.” The three women are married to men who have been buddies since college. The couples get together monthly, rotating homes. They’ve been doing it for years.

But the wives don’t really like each other and have only the most superficial of relationships. And as for their husbands (who remain off-stage and are only heard, never seen) —well, they’re condescending jerks who boss their wives around.

One’s a control freak, checking on with his wife every two hours. One’s an adulterer, and the other is under indictment for embezzlement. Not exactly candidates for Husband of the Year.


Tera Nicole Miller, Lucy Sundby and Jessica Walck star in “Smell of the Kill” as women who share a growing disdain for their husbands. 
COURTESY PHOTO Tera Nicole Miller, Lucy Sundby and Jessica Walck star in “Smell of the Kill” as women who share a growing disdain for their husbands. COURTESY PHOTO The embezzler, who likes to hunt and kill defenseless animals for sport, has just spent $8,000 on a meat locker in his basement. While showing it to his buddies, he and his friends accidentally lock themselves inside it.

When the wives realize this, they’re faced with a dilemma: Do they get their husbands out, or do they let them freeze to death?

The play by Michele Lowe got off to a bumpy start at Lab Theater. The women playing the wives each have a different hair color: platinum blonde, red and brunette, which makes you think the characters might be stereotypes too. Opening lines were hard to hear, as the characters clattered dishes and plates. (Some lines later on were also difficult to catch, as the audience was laughing and drowning them out. I trust the actors will learn to pause to accommodate the laughter.)

The concept of having the husbands in the next room, calling out through a door that opened when they spoke, was also frustrating. The men sometimes sounded as if they were talking out of a tin can. It also wasn’t totally clear what the men were doing: watching football or golf on the TV? Also practicing golf shots?

But soon enough, the play found its feet, as the women bickered and sniped, then gossiped about each other whenever one of them left the room.

The action all takes place in a big kitchen in a $1.2 million house in Winnetka, Ill. The set by Michael Eyth is one of the Lab Theater’s more accomplished sets, complete with a refrigerator, stove and an island with a sink. (Though I wish the walls had been painted a more sophisticated color. If you’d added more tables, it would’ve looked like the setting of a Mexican restaurant chain.) A more surreal kitchen would’ve been fun and fitting for this offbeat play.

This dark comedy is light fare, but despite myself, I began liking these women, even though they are not totally likeable characters. They’re wealthy and entitled and thoroughly shallow, but they have enough funny lines that I began to laugh. Consistently.

The actresses definitely help elevate the material.

Tera Nicole Miller plays Debra, a sophisticated real estate agent who looks down her nose at the other two, like a classic Hitchcockian blonde ice queen. It’s entertaining to see her break down onstage.

Jessica Walck is Molly, the ditzy wife whose face clouds when she has to think. She’s so moneyed that she thinks being poor means you have to drive a Ford Focus.

Rounding out the trio is Lucy Sundby as Nicky, the wife of the embezzler and the evening’s hostess. A new mother, she’s competent, but she’s also full of rage. And boy, is she full of surprises. She’s also the character I’d most like to hang out with, though part of that might have to do with the fact that she’s an editor.

Director Carmen Crussard has cast this show well and despite the material, keeps the play more theatrical than sitcom-y. I wish she had smoothed out some of the play’s rough edges, however, and made the men’s dialogue clearer.

As the evening wears on in this one-act play, the wine flows and more secrets are revealed.

Will the women rescue the men, or will they just let them freeze to death?

They discuss it. They argue vehemently.

“The Smell of the Kill” is deliciously wicked. I’m sure more than one husband in the audience slept with one eye open that night.

Is it high theater?

No.

Did it make me laugh?

Yes.

And you can’t argue with that. ¦

‘The Smell of the Kill’

>> When: Through Aug. 26

>> Where: Laboratory Theater of Florida, 1634 Woodford Ave., Fort Myers

>> Cost: $27 ($12 for students)

>> Info: 218-0481 or www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com

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