The roar of the scheming
Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 11:59 p.m.
Meet Nicky, Debra and Molly.
- WHAT: Dark comedy about three women who want to kill their husbands.
- WHERE: The Hippodrome State Theatre.
- WHEN: Friday through Feb. 4: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
- TICKETS: $10-$30 (375-4477)
Their husbands are pigs. Their marriages are in varying states of decay. Their lives are in disarray.
But hold the pity.
They're rich (Molly's idea of poverty is having to drive a Ford Focus). They're shallow, and they can be quite violent (Nicky shoots holes in the walls of her $2.5 million house with a pistol to blow off steam).
Such is the setting for the funny, troubling and evocative play, "The Smell of the Kill," which opens at the Hippodrome State Theatre on Friday.
"It's not quite a black comedy, but it's borderline," says Director Robert Satterlee.
Satterlee, who is a visiting director from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, says that the play works so well because it mixes moments of levity and humor with ones of intensity and seriousness.
"If you don't play those serious parts, the comedy won't work," he says.
Nell Page, who plays Debra, agrees.
"This has been very complex," she says. "The challenge is finding the moments of truth."
Many of the play's most powerful parts are in those moments of truth, when the characters become human and the plot becomes about more than just three women who want to kill their husbands.
Nicky's problems are the most obvious - her husband has just been caught embezzling millions of dollars and is being dragged, family in tow, through the press and a painful public trial.
"Finding Nicky's vulnerability was hard," says Laura Rohner (Nicky). "She's tough, she's brassy, but she's not a psychotic murderer."
Molly's dark side comes out fairly early - she's an alcoholic trapped in a childless marriage with a husband who won't have sex with her - and continues to unravel as the story progresses.
"Of the three, Molly is the one who has the least amount of purpose," says Cady West Garey (Molly). "She's just wealthy - that's how she participates with the world, through her money."
Debra is the hardest to crack. She seems devoted to her husband, although it turns out he is in the process of divorcing her and kicking her out of the house so he can live with his mistress.
"There are so many layers to these characters that as we unfold them, we see the truth behind them," Page says.
Although Page, Rohner and Garey have never worked together, they have developed remarkable chemistry onstage.
"We're really co-creating from a new place," Page says. "We've never worked together before, so we're just seeing how each of us reacts to different things and really playing off of each other."
Adds Rohner: "We've become friends personally, as actors and real people. That helps feed the relationship on stage."
And ultimately, the play is about relationships - not the happily-ever-after kind, but the way they happen in real life, where serious wrongs have been done and neither husband nor wife is free of guilt.
"Everyone in the audience who has been in a relationship will know what it feels like," Satterlee says.
Page sees an even deeper meaning behind the relationships in the play.
"Each of us is dealing with our womanhood as it relates to our children, and that is a deeper bond than with our husbands," she says. "But in the end, the unraveling of our characters is really about ourselves, which is the hardest mirror to look at."
In the end, the play forces the audience to make a judgment call. Do the women deserve pity or scorn - Is not acting sometimes, in itself, an action? "It's an interesting question that the play poses," Rohner says. "When push comes to shove, what would you really do when you're at the end of the cliff and you have to make a choice?"
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