Lori Prince and Autumn Hurlbert in Killing Women.
BOTTOM LINE: Funny and well performed, but falls apart in the last 20-30 minutes.
Man, does Killing Women have all the right things going for it. A first-rate cast of talented and funny actresses, a clever premise of an assassin agency that mirrors the corporate world, and totally believable relationships. I was really enjoying it, up until the last half hour or so. At the climax of the play, the story takes a wrong turn and becomes completely unrealistic. All of a sudden you find yourself checking your watch and sighing, and it's disappointing to realize that while you didn't know where this story was going, the writer didn't either. The story gets wrapped up in a random way that doesn't ring true to the characters put before you for the last hour and a half. It is such a bummer, because you can't help but thoroughly enjoy everything up until then.
Lori Prince does a wonderfully funny and believable portrayal of Abby, a focused and seemingly heartless assassin who is trying for a promotion at the assassin agency she works for. She can get promoted by training Gwen, a seemingly sweet and innocent young mother, to be a killer like Gwen's late husband, whom Gwen killed in the first scene. Gwen, played by Autumn Hurlbert, reluctantly goes along with Abby's plan once she figures out it's kill or be killed, and the two women, along with fellow assassin Lucy (played by the fabulous Lisa Brescia), enjoy some fun girl time over killing some sketchy dudes. Gwen proves to be an excellent killer, but trouble arises when she kills someone she wasn't supposed to.
These three characters are so well-defined and well acted, Killing Women is worth watching just to see these three ladies perform. I love the way Lori Price plays cynical Abby's awkward humor and short temper. Autumn Hurlbert is a born comedian, and I was thoroughly impressed with her clever delivery and timing. Hulbert got her first big break when she came in second on MTV's Search for Elle Woods. I never caught much of the show but I remember people saying that she was the best one and was robbed, and I can believe it. I loved her and Prince's interactions and hope to see more of Hulbert in the NYC theater scene soon. However, both these talented ladies are occasionally outshined by Lisa Brescia, who struts across the stage with confidence and fierceness that only belongs to the brightest stars. Brescia doesn't even have to say anything to get a laugh from the audience; with just a raise of the eyebrow and a lingered glance, you find yourself on the floor. The men in this play are somewhat forgettable, but that is no fault of theirs – this play was written for the three female roles.
So with everything good going for Killing Women, it is so disappointing when it all falls apart at the end. Granted, I don't know how I would end it, but I certainly wouldn't have the relationships and power positions wrap up the way they do - it just doesn't make sense. You really get the feeling that playwright Marisa Wegrzyn didn't know where it was going, and just wrapped it up any way she knew how. But the first three quarters of Killing Women is such a great time that if you're looking for a good laugh delivered by deliciously talented and funny actresses, this still might be the play for you.
(Killing Women plays at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, through June 5, 2010. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $18 and are available online at www.killingwomen.com or by calling Ticket Central at 212.279.4200.)