Review: THE SMELL OF THE KILL at Stageworks Theatre

The 3 women in the cast are undeniably perfect together.

By: Feb. 12, 2023
Review: THE SMELL OF THE KILL at Stageworks Theatre
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"Every couple has problems..."

"As long as I have an out, I have a choice..."

Michele Lowe's calculated and chilly dark comedy The Smell of the Kill premiered at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1999. It later transferred to Broadway to the Helen Hayes Theatre in 2022 where it played only 40 performances.

The plot of our story centers on Nicky, Debra, and Molly who have entertained once-a-month dinners with each other and their unloving husbands for years. The husbands are heard but never seen, as they are playing golf in the dining room. So as the wives tidy up following dinner, and the liquor begins to flow, so do the women's confidences. Defenses begin to fall as we learn that the three marriages are on the verge of catastrophe due to unrelated events. Nicky's husband is indicted for embezzlement, Debra's husband is in the process of leaving her for another woman, and Molly's husband is stalking her. The conflict of the story comes when the men accidentally lock themselves inside the newly installed Meat Locker in the basement. As the women find out what has happened, they are faced with a decision. Do they end their grief/strife and leave them to freeze inside the Meat Locker, or rescue them and let them "thaw out?" Hilarious antics ensue as we the audience are left with deciding which side to choose.

As our 3 dissatisfied wives, Bay area favorites Susan Haldeman, Heather Kreuger, and Jonelle Meyer are an exquisite trio.

Susan Haldeman is wonderful as Debra. You feel for her as the woman scorned, the woman left, and the woman trying to get back on her feet after the rug has been pulled out from under her. It is always a joy every time I get to witness her power on stage. She has exceptional stage presence and is always clear on every execution. Her moments with the other two wives in the cast are hilarious, especially a moment involving a ripped blouse and too much alcohol. She probably has the best speech in the play,

"People make mistakes, but do you murder them? Marty's awful but should I kill him? I don't know, I don't know...but if Marty freezes to death...will I rot in hell?"

You truly get a sense of her moral dilemma in this moment, and as it hangs in the room, is Debra the one who truly "smells the kill?"

As Nicky, Heather Kreuger is calculated, exacting, and down-right angry, and wickedly good. There is a moment late in the show that involves a gun that needs to be experienced. Each time Heather is on-stage her presence explodes and we are lucky to be in the room when it happens. A marvel in heels, Heather commands the room and her Nicky is as sharp-tongued as they come.

Molly, played by Jonelle Meyer is the spoiled woman who in every romantic comedy makes you cringe with delight. Each time she steps to the door to tell her husband how much she misses him is so awfully annoying, and we all know people who've been culprits of this. Jonelle is exceptional in her delivery, you get the ditsy, out-of-touch with reality from her Molly, and as aloof as she comes her facial expressions and overall presence on-stage is spot on. Reminiscent of her turn in Topher Payne's Morningside we are once again treated to a zany and hilarious character by Ms. Meyer. Known for her exceptional comedic timing, Jonelle is outstanding here.

Set Design by the exceptional Scott Cooper provides us with the perfect rendering of a world in which to defrost the lives of these characters. Costume Design by Heather Kreuger truly gives each of the women a unique personality, and the use of lingerie provides a strong touch of female camaraderie in a feministic outlook on the world. Rachel Harrison's sound design blends perfectly with the world of the show and allows us to be fully engaged in the moment-to-moment of these women. Lighting Design by Director Karla Hartley expertly lends itself to the mood of the show and the lives of these women. With a keen eye for detail, and expert pacing Karla Hartley directs with the finest of hands. Pacing is crucial in a show such as this, and a swift 75 minutes provides us with a sharp-as-a-tack through-line that goes for the jugular and does not hold back.

Michele Lowe's The Smell of the Kill is being produced as part of the 40th Anniversary Season at Stageworks Theatre in the Channel District of Tampa. Tickets can be purchased by visiting Like lighting in a bottle, Stageworks continues to push the envelope and ignite the human spirit and spark a conversation. The perfect show to see with your girlfriends, so grab the girls for some wine and a night out of the house that you will never forget. Don't Miss The Smell of the Kill onstage through February 27,2023. Don't freeze yourself out of seeing this exceptional work!

Photo Credit: Stage Photography of Tampa