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Like the Emmy Award-nominated actresses in the “Desperate Housewives” television series, Lynda Clark as Nikki, Carol Marcotte as Debra, and Fran Wescott as Molly give performances to die for in Theatre in the Park’s devilishly funny production of The Smell of the Kill, Michele Lowe’s brilliant black comedy about a trio of women who face a once-in-a-lifetime dilemma. Nikki’s husband Jay is an embezzler whose imminent fine and imprisonment is likely to lower his family’s standard of living substantially, Debra’s husband Marty is a shameless serial philanderer who even tries to feel up his friend Jay’s wife Nikki, and Molly’s husband Danny makes her acutely uncomfortable with smothering displays of affection that don’t even stop at the bathroom door.
While the three drunk and truly obnoxious boys — former college chums who never grew up — wreck Nikki’s living room with their childish frat-boy games, their wives convene — a bit uneasily — in Nikki’s splendid designer kitchen (superbly recreated in Architectural Digest detail by TIP scenic and lighting designer Stephen J. Larson). In the course of the evening, and under the influence of more and more wine, these three formerly malleable women find strength to spill their darkest secrets and face a life-changing decision: What should they do when their feckless husbands accidentally lock themselves in a gigantic basement meat locker built — over Nikki’s objections — to house the many deer carcasses brought home from Jay’s hunting trips? Should the wives rescue their husbands or let the three jerks freeze?
Triangle diva Lynda Clark gives a wonderfully tart performance as Nikki, who uses a butcher knife to pin a newspaper article about her greedy husband’s financial misdeeds inside the door of one of her kitchen cabinets. Veteran actresses Carol Marcotte as Debra and Fran Wescott as Molly provide perfect foils for Nikki’s barely suppressed volcanic rage which the continuing offstage verbal abuse by Jay, Marty, and Danny finally causes to erupt.
Carol Marcotte adds a sharply etched portrait of a betrayed wife who subordinated her real-estate career to her husband’s and who knows much more than she lets on about Marty’s goatish behavior. (Indeed, Marcotte kept her poise despite an opening-night wardrobe malfunction, which proved more physically revealing than she expected.) And Fran Wescott gives a piquant performance as Molly, whose overly attentive husband is virtually a stalker with conjugal privileges.
Will they or won’t they? That’s what inquiring minds in TIP’s opening-night audience ask last Friday night wanted to know. Guest director Eric Carl kept them guessing until the final curtain.
Carl not only gets full-blooded characterizations from Lynda Clark, Carol Marcotte, and Fran Wescott, but he also stages this dark script with admirable wit and a healthy dose of irony on a magnificent set by scenic and lighting designer Stephen J. Larson while his spunky actresses style and profile in pert party clothes from costume designer Shawn Stewart-Larson. The sound design by Will Mikes did not always make the obnoxious comments from the three never-seen husbands completely clear, and there were sounds from the baby monitor on the kitchen counter and other bits of ambient sound that were hard to hear. But these are fixable flaws in an otherwise exemplary production. Don’t miss The Smell of the Kill.
Theatre in the Park presents The Smell of the Kill Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 14-16, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $21 ($13 students and active-duty military personnel and $15 seniors), except a $30 Sweetheart Special on Feb. 14th, which includes two tickets and a glass of wine for each sweetheart, plus preshow refreshments. 919/831-6058 or via etix @ the presenter's site. Note: Arts Access, Inc., will audio-describe the 8 p.m. Feb. 14th performance. Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com. Director's Notes: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/v02/sections02/behindscenes/notes.html [inactive 11/09]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=11006.