Producer/ stars Allyson Harkey and Karen Lange, in their newest production for Pinky Swear—Marisa Wegryzn’s Killing Women— present a play about the big women’s issues of our day. In particular, the work/ family struggle, and the pitfalls of women in a male-dominated profession. Only here, that profession happens to be professional killing.
Harkey plays Abby, a stone-cold hitwoman, who is frustrated by being passed up for the prestige jobs by male colleagues. Lange plays Lucy, a miscast assassin who dislikes blood and noise, and works on perfecting subtler methods, like poison.
But it is two supporting characters that stand out in this story. Steve Beall plays Ramone, the very stoic and strong-willed head of the murder-for-hire-syndicate that employs Abby and Lucy. Allison Galen plays Gwen, a reluctant recruit. Beall plays his role with a perfect sense of gangster movie clichés, while Galen comically captures both the frivolity and the uncompromising practicality of a working mother with a young child.
The plot, however, dissipated in my mind like steam from a grate. When I leave a play, I usually leave with a few memorable scenes in my head. In the case of Killing Women, however, the most enduring scene is the play’s first. Abby and colleague Baxter enter Baxter’s home after an apparent late-night kiss-and-tell session. Suddenly, Baxter’s wife Gwen appears. She pulls a suppressed pistol from her robe, puts it to Baxter’s head, and blows a fresh hole in his skull.
The following day, Ramone, angry that he has lost one of his best killers, orders Abby to rub out Gwen. But Abby, seeing the ease and proficiency Gwen displayed in killing a professional, suggests instead that they recruit Gwen to take Baxter’s place on the crew. After a lot of argument, Ramone allows Abby one week to train Gwen for the job, a job she has no interest in. If she doesn’t meet Ramone’s satisfaction, Abby has to kill her personally.
The story that follows is a generally funny worlds-collide farce as the stony Abby sets up Gwen’s first hit, but Gwen seems to only care about her daughter and her stack of Cosmopolitan magazines. There is also a subplot involving a weird, almost-romantic relationship between Abby and fellow rub-out artist Mike Sanders (Jonas David Gray).
While these elements are all sound, the balloon that Wegryzn builds up inexplicably deflates. The tensions between Gwen and Abby, and more caustically the tensions between Abby and Ramone should, in a black comedy like this, come to a violent conclusion. Wegryzn instead shuns the big bang, choosing, for whatever reasons, to keep her characters open to change.
Between the scenes, cast members sing classic children’s songs with macabre parody lyrics. This is deliciously funny, with such moments as Beall dryly singing “Do You Know the Rub-Out Man,” or Harkey and Lange singing about throwing victims in the dumpster to the tune of “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” These songs, written by the cast, push the theme along to its conclusion.
Overall, if you see Killing Women, you will see an entertaining, and a sometimes delightfully entertaining show, but probably not one that will come up in conversations later.
Killing Women runs thru May 12, 2012 at Spooky Action Theatre, 1810 16th St NW, Washington, DC.
By Marisa Wegrzyn
Directed by Jessica Aimone
Produced by Allyson Harkey and Karen Lange
Reviewed by Steve Hallex
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission
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