Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Smell of the Kill’ bristles with humor in Tisch Mills

Critic At Large

The Forst Inn Arts Collective

Program covers. (Warren Gerds)

TISCH MILLS, Wis. (WFRV) – A comical nightmare?

A horror comedy?

A twisty twilight zone?

Whatever, the “The Smell of the Kill” is played with elaborate, juicy detail in the three featured roles in The Forst Inn Arts Collective production running for three more performances.

The show is like watching three pampered cats with a well-deserved grudge – claws out, teeth showing and purring at the chance to wreck the furniture.

Molly’s husband has the love jones for her except where it matters.

Nicky’s husband is headed for the slammer.

Brenda’s husband figures it is her responsibility to be caretaker of his cigars.

The husbands are heard (all voiced by Ian Wisneski) and not seen. Eventually, there are sounds of thumping from inside a basement meat locker, the freezer type. The wives are voting whether to let the guys out.

It’s easy to imagine playwright Michelle Lowe laughing with diabolical glee while writing the second half of this play. During the first part, the image may be of determination as she skewers Chicago suburbia – self-serving mores, privilege-taking, gossip-mongering, molting marriages and hormonal endeavors.

This is all done with wry, dark humor.

Tuning in to the three women teetering on a brink but briefly not knowing it are Carrie Todd Counihan as Nicky, Heather Love as Brenda and Elizabeth Szyman as Molly.

Carrie Todd Counihan, Elizabeth Szyman, Heather Love. (The Forst Inn Arts Collective)

Each is individually strong – full of nuance and expression and zest. Together, they hum in a theatrical way – feeding off the others’ timing and responses and persona matches/mismatches.

Assisting them to click is Michael Sheeks, the guiding force of The Forst Inn Arts Collective. Bits of color abound.

Side note: On the weekend, Heather Love joined the local production of “All Together Now!” that led into this production – an uplifting kind of warmup.

Action takes place in a kitchen with an island and all the appliances, with a seating area nearby – everything carefully made to look like it’s from a magazine.

The setup is this: The women tag along with monthly get-togethers involving their husbands, who are buddies from back in college. The guys do their guy things other rooms as the women catch up on family, careers and the latest happenings/mishappenings within their wobbly sphere. The voice of the individual husband reveals the status of each couple, subtly at first.

Cognac flows among the three women, and wagging tongues get loose and looser.

Things pick up speed when Molly leaves the room to see (coo over) Nicky’s infant child. Molly comes back with urp on her top. When Molly takes off her top for a cleanup, the other women admire a garment that may be from a famous negligee store. Molly says it’s a gift. Asked if it’s from her husband, Molly rolls the ball down the alley and sends the tenpins of comedy a-flying with her response.

This is an adult comedy with layers of satire sprinkled with devilishness – well-made and well-played.


Creative: Playwright – Michelle Lowe; stage direction, lights, sound – Michael Sheeks; costume design – Claran LaViolette; set design – Nanette Macy; stage management – Lisa Heili


Nicky – Carrie Todd Counihan

Brenda – Heather Love

Molly – Elizabeth Szyman

The Guys – Ian Wisneski

Running time: One hour, 35 minutes

Remaining performances: 6 p.m. Nov 19-20 and 1 p.m. Nov. 21

Info: forstinn.org


NEXT: “Mistletoe Musings 2021,” Dec. 3-4, 10-12, 17-19.

THE VENUE: The historic Forst Inn is located at the corner of Kewaunee County roads B and BB. The building dates to 1868, with assorted lives over the years. For a notable period – 1990 into the 2000s – the place was popular for productions of Little Sandwich Theatre, which Manitowoc attorney Ron Kaminski (deceased 2018) nurtured with a caring hand as artistic director/performer/do-all for a wide array of productions. The present venture is of that spirit. The stage is wide and narrow. The space is intimate. Seating is at small tables on two levels in a slight arc in front of the slightly raised stage. To the audience’s rear is the stage director’s space, with light and sound controls. The space is essentially a black box in theater style in the front – with additions: two chandeliers above the audience, a street lamp the seating area and the ambiance of 1920s style elements to the rear in a service area.  A seating/serving area is in the middle of the building, along with a ticketing counter. The bar area out front includes the bar, table seating, more 1920s ambiance and a passage to an art gallery (rotating artists) that is now part of the offerings of The Forst Inn Arts Collective overseen by Michael Sheeks, who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus in Manitowoc.

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