The Smell of the Kill, the dark comedy be Michele Lowe that will probably be best remembered as stirring up a bit of a producers vs. critics war of the sexes, will close on Broadway on April 28. It will have played just 20 previews and 40 regular performances.
The play began previews March 7 and opened on March 28 to largely poor reviews.
They say there's no fury like a woman scorned. Well, that is apparently nothing compared to two women producers, a female playwright and an all-distaff cast scorned by a male drama critic. When New York Times' Bruce Weber gave the show a wilting, rather condescending review, producers Elizabeth McCann and Nelle Nugent struck back with a pointed ad which ran in the Paper of Record on March 29—the day after the review ran.
The display ad quotes Weber's appraisal under the heading "In HIS review," reading: "O.K., I'm not a woman and I'm not married, so it's possible I'm just not in tune with a members-only message. (I admired The Vagina Monologues, but I suspect I DIDN'T REALLY GET IT.)" [Caps and italics, theirs.]
The ad then quotes New York 1's Roma Torre under the heading "In HER review": "Imagine Lucy & Ethel transplanted to the 21st century. The Smell of the Kill is a very funny, 90-minute guilty pleasure. This comedy has enough of a black heart to make it more appealing to men than you might think." Finally, the ad declaims "Get it now, Bruce?" in large, capital letters.
Michele Lowe's comedy stars Claudia Shear, Jessica Stone and Lisa Emery. It is about three women whose husbands become accidentally trapped in a meat locker and are then left there by their spouses to die.
Several days after the Times ad, Newsday's Linda Winer—one of the few female theatre critics working in New York—devoted a column to the spat and the fact that men and women were having very different reactions to the Lowe work.
Broadway producers and artists rarely retaliate so publicly against Times' reviews, fearing the power the newspaper has over any show that opens in New York City. On occasion, however, professionals such as producer David Merrick and playwright David Hare have ostentatiously aired their grievances with the broadsheet.
For tickets to Smell of the Kill, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, call (212) 239-6200.