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Regional Reviews: New Jersey

The Smell of the Kill: Deftly Amusing Comic Romp

Also see Bob's review of Greater Tuna

Victoria Steele, Barbara Guidi and Harriett Trangucci
There is enough substance and character delineation in Michele Lowe's amusing homicidal screwball comedy The Smell of the Kill to allow us to enjoy its considerable pleasures without feeling any guilt.

This 75-minute comedy finds three upper-middleclass married women, Nicky, Debra and Molly, gathered in Nicky's kitchen after dinner. Their husbands (heard, but unseen), who are horsing around in the living room, are old college buddies. Nicky's husband Jay has a new meat locker in the basement in which he stores the carcasses of animals he has shot while hunting. When Jay and the other husbands get themselves locked into the meat locker (Nicky advises Debra and Molly that there has been trouble with the lock), the seriously aggrieved wives debate whether or not to rescue them. Of necessity, their decision must be unanimous.

These women have certainly not bonded. Victoria Steele is fascinating as the sharp and aggressive Nicky. Her husband, who has been indicted for embezzlement, wants her to quit her job as a book editor in order to collect on her profit sharing and provide the funds for his defense. At first, Steele attempts to conceal her emotions from the others, but, even before Nicky senses the opportunity to escape from her hated husband, Steele convincingly unleashes her seething anger as she reveals the inside of the cabinet where she has affixed an article about her husband's indictment by driving a knife through his photograph. Her Nicky is perfectly placed between mad (angry) and mad (insane).

Phi Beta Kappa Debra, who expresses her unhappiness by being catty toward Nicky, accepts her role as housewife to husband Marty who cheats on her and has forced her to send their son to military school. Harriett Trangucci sharply delineates a catty, unhappy woman whose rational disinclination to participate in murder plays as being unreasonable. Barbara Guidi winningly portrays the simple, uninsightful Molly, who drinks too much and is having an affair. After all, husband Danny had forced her to have an abortion and now has lost interest in her sexually and otherwise. Lowe and Guidi add dimension by making Molly a person who, while sharing physical and situational space with the others, is psychically and intellectually in a different world.

Gary Glor and Jerry Lazar are on hand to provide the off-stage voices of two of the husbands. The sprightly direction has been provided by Mark Spina. He continues to show his gift for comic invention. The entire production has been well designed. Special praise is due to the snazzy costumes of Daaimah Talley

I would not be surprised to see an expanded The Smell of the Kill on movie screens. It is pleasurable to contemplate who might be cast as the three wives. For now, in the intimate surroundings of Union County's Theatre Project, Michele Lowe's sharply focused The Smell of the Kill provides satisfying comic entertainment.

The Smell of the Kill continues performances (Thursday - Saturday 8 p.m. / Sunday 3 p.m.) through April 19, 2009) at the Theater Project at Union County College, 1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey 07016; Box Office: 800-838-3006; General Information: 908-659-5189; online:;

The Smell of the Kill by Michele Lowe; directed by Mark Spina
Debra............Harriett Trangucci
Nicky……………...Victoria Steele
Molly………………..Barbara Guidi
The Men…Gary Glor, Jerry Lazar

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- Bob Rendell

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