Lori Prince and Autumn Hurlburt
in Killing Women
(© Ry Pepper
Lori Prince and Autumn Hurlburt
in Killing Women
(© Ry Pepper
Marisa Wegrzyn's new play Killing Women, now at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, is one of those seemingly inspired late-night ideas that probably would be best realized as a Saturday Night Live skit. When stretched laboriously into a two-act play, however, the notion of women trying to climb the corporate ladder in the hired-assassin biz ends up shooting itself in the foot, despite the efforts of a first-rate cast.

Lori Prince dominates the proceedings as Abby, the kind of ultra-focused careerist lacking the slightest trace of sentimentality. Indeed, she kicks off the play with a joke that is both deeply misogynistic yet nonetheless funny. Abby's caustic sangfroid and her ascetic devotion to getting the job done make her a natural in her chosen profession.

At the other end of the spectrum is her ultra-feminine colleague Lucy (Lisa Brescia), who has the unfortunate tendency of falling for her marks. She favors a hypodermic over a gun -- and you get the sense that if she could somehow manage murder via sex, she'd prefer to go that route.

Falling somewhere between the two is Gwen (Autumn Hurlbert), a young mother who has been content just to be the wife of a hired gun until she discovers it's kill or be killed. With a five-year-old daughter (never seen but believably present) to care for, Gwen would rather join the ranks than be offed. And despite her air of wholesome peppiness, she also appears to be born to kill.

Filling out the ranks are three male actors in a variety of roles: Brian Dykstra is convincingly cagey as the boss of this terminal collection agency; Michael Puzzo puts in a nice puppy-dog turn as Mike, a barely competent co-assassin enamored of the emotionally armored Abby; and Adam Kantor plays two victims and a potential survivor.

The play, directed by Adam Fitzgerald, definitely has its moments and its share of witty dialogue -- from Mike sharing a haiku to Abby discussing the subject of children ("I don't trust them. They got agendas.") -- but it all begins to feel like a slog. Ultimately, the work is simply too long to expect audiences to keep laughing at the prospect of cold, brutal, routine executions -- or, for that matter, at death in general.