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Killing Women

Review by Tulis McCall
(19 May 2010)

Okay so the rollercoaster ride of excellent shows has come to a halt. It had to happen. Going to the theatre is always a risk. Is it a minefield or a cornfield? Is it compost or just a pile of garbage?

In the case of Killing Women it is more like something wilted prematurely. I can't quite put my finger on this one. I mean it is the text that lets everyone scatter about the stage like jacks, but it is difficult to pinpoint why.

First off, the title can be taken two ways, both of which are unpleasant at best. I remember listening to an NPR special about people who were against murder being used as entertainment. Each of them was had had a loved one murdered, and made the case that if we replaced the act of murder with the act of rape the viewing public might turn away. It was one of those moments that change things.

So this play, all about women who kill for a living, was in the doghouse before I sat down.

That being said, this play did nothing to redeem itself.

The story revolves around a hit squad that operates more like a gang of real estate sales personnel. People are bumped off at the rate of about a dozen a day between the lot of them, and it's a wonder there is anyone left in town at the rate they are going. The team operates in a kind of vacuum. They mention their hits the way someone else might talk about their laundry: it's all a series of chores. There is no police presence, or even a mention of the law, or of getting caught. Life is death, and death is a business.

The fly in the ointment comes when one of the victims is offed by his wife. The head of the gang, Ramon (Bran Dykstra) seems to think this warrants the wife being taken out as well as her daughter. Why this is so is a mystery. He assigns Abby (Lori Prince)) the task of carrying out the hit. Abby counters with the suggestion that said wife, Gwen (Autumn Hurlbert), who has already proven to be a crack shot, be brought into the gang. Ramon gives her a week, at the end of which Gwen will be recruited or dead. There ensues a very dull and tedious series of scenes in which Gwen undergoes training, aided by Lucy (Lisa Brescia) who has forgone the use of firearms in favor of lethal injections as her MOA. There is even a couple of love stories tossed in, accompanied by Haiku, and a Career Day presentation for a kindergarten class. Hello?

It is all terribly, terribly over-written, and might even work as a one-act of 45 minutes or so. It's difficult to say, because at this stage there is a lot of clutter that needs to be weeded out of the mix. Too many stories are spoiling the stew.

With the exception of Autumn Hurlbert, who takes perky to an unnecessary level, Marisa Wegrzyn is more than well served by this cast. It is another one of those shows where you leave the theatre loving actors. They will try ANYTHING, and give EVERYTHING to make a moment work on stage. These folks do what they can and do it well. But they still can't make it work.

Wegrzyn is less well served by her director, Adam Fitzgerald, whose staging is cumbersome, beginning with the actors leather soled shoes on a plywood floor making more noise than their lines. Entrances and exits on this very wide but shallow stage take up more time than needed; contributing to the very slow pace of what should have been a brisk presentation. And the set is more of an impediment than an aide.

All in all, it is a play that defies explanation. The actors really do their best, but the air in the theatre is sucked right out the door by this script. No air = no life, and even a play about killing needs life.

(Tulis McCall)

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