Monday, February 15, 2010

The Smell of the Kill

It was an excellent weekend for theater. On Friday night I went to see Williamston's "The Smell of the Kill," to review it for Encore Michigan. The next morning I headed out to Holland to take my first stab as a forensics theater judge. That was an incredible day in which three of us were privileged to judge the incredible work done by five groups of students. They did 45-minute cuts of the following shows:

  • Sweet Nothings in Her Ear
  • The Laramie Project
  • Doctor Faustus
  • The Jungle Book
  • Romeo and Juliet

I look forward to doing that again some day and am most grateful to Jane Falion for recommending me.

A Study in Assertiveness

While you can read my review at the link above (go ahead, click on the word "review" and visit the rest of Encore Michigan while you're there), The Smell of the Kill is one of those plays that encourages you to keep thinking. I found myself taking plenty of notes that didn't really fit in the context of a review.

The Smell of the Kill could be a textbook case illustrating the differences between being passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. None of the women in the play are assertive.

Let me give you Exhibit A: Nicky, a career woman who enjoys the wealth that she and her husband has accumulated. When he is indicted for embezzlement, she is furious because they are going to lose everything they have. Her reaction is one of very overt anger—she says she’s going to kill him during the first several minutes of the play.

Exhibit B: Molly. It is tempting to think of her as being the passive one. She responds to her husband’s possessiveness by keeping up a smiling, sweet face while striking out to get what she wants. Yet, as the play goes on, the audience learns that she is not passive. She's found her own way to fight against that which frustrates her in her marriage. She doesn't confront him directly, but she goes out and gets what she wants in a very passive-aggressive manner.

Exhibit C: Debra. Debra truly is the passive one. The audience learns almost immediately that her marriage is not a happy one. At least, we learn that her husband is a cad with roaming hands and eyes. Yet, she is the one who defends her husband, who tries to shame Nicky for not being a supportive wife, and who gives up everything she wants.

It's not surprising that all of their marriages are failing.

For a moment, let’s take it out of the context of a play in which the playwright makes choices based on dramatic effect, humor, and entertainment. Indulge me and pretend that these are real women. None of them have marital problems that are insurmountable—at least, not if they had been approached with two partners who were assertive and honest—or at least assertive in the face of dishonesty.

None of them have created a relationship where problems are tackled with a desire for a win-win situation. They're all stuck in the win-lose or lose-lose scenarios. This is a play in which the husbands are cads, but their wives aren't much better. They've cast themselves as victims who can only become "winners" if they turn their husbands into victims.

The play is hilarious and highly entertaining, but it can also be a character study in how NOT to run one's relationships.

A Superficial Smell

Perhaps the other thing that keeps the characters from becoming too sympathetic is their motivations for wanting to kill their husbands--in particular Nicky and Molly. The character who has the most cause and stands to lose the most, is the one who is least aggressive and the one who doesn't have the hunger for revenge that the others do.

Nicky is married to embezzler and is angry because she is about to lose the wealth she has become accustomed to. She's ready to kill for money.

Molly is married to a stalker and is frustrated because she's not getting enough sex and doesn't have the babies that she wants. She's ready to kill for more sex.

Debra is married to an adulterer--one who is ready to divorce her and throw her out of her home. She is about to lose everything just so she can still have custody of her child--a child who hates her because the child thinks it was her decision and not the husband's to put him in military school.

It is fascinating that the one with the most cause is the one who holds out the longest and who keeps up the fa├žade the longest while the one whose loss is the most superficial is the one most quickly incited.

Go ahead, go see "The Smell of the Kill" at Williamston and when you're done laughing, spend some time thinking about these women.


1 comment:

Tony Caselli said...

Glad you enjoyed the show, Bridgette - and you're right - It's definitely NOT how a template I'd like to see MY marriage follow! :)