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Nicole Jeannine Smith, Carley Cornelius and Katherine Michelle Tanner in The Drowning Girls. Photo by Cliff Roles

 

You may not be all that familiar with the infamous, true-life case of the Edwardian-era Brides in the Bath murders, but you don’t need to be to find yourself intrigued by the current Urbanite Theatre production of The Drowning Girls (by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic), which brings together three victims of one manipulative man.

The three women, done to death by the bigamous, larcenous, murderous George Joseph Smith, are different, yet similar in the way they came to their ends. As they emerge onto the stage—and submerge themselves in the three tubs of water that occupy it—they tell us, in pieces, their stories of how they met Smith (who used aliases as well), married him, and basically, gave him all their money before meeting their watery ends.

There’s Bessie (Nicole Jeannine Smith), gentle, naïve, who ardently longs for love. There’s Alice (Carley Cornelius), who rebels against her family to run away with her lover. And there’s Margaret (Katherine Michelle Tanner), the oldest of the three, who had all but given up hope of love or marriage.

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Nicole Jeannine Smith as Bessie. Photo by Cliff Roles

 

For all three, the society around them expects certain things. A woman with no family, no home, no husband, is to be pitied and alone. They need to be married, not only for love or companionship, but to have a place in their world.

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Carley Cornelius, Katherine Michelle Turner and Nicole Jeannine Smith. Photo by Cliff Roles

 

The three actresses, under the direction of Brendan Ragan, all create very specific characters in their main roles, bringing them to life with sensitivity and sharpness. But they also enact a host of others, including Alice’s worried mother, a male doctor with a disdain for female health issues, a pair of smarmy life insurance salesmen, some Cockney coppers, and even the charming but malevolent Smith himself. (A photo of him looms over the set as well.)

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Carley Cornelius as Alice. Photo by Cliff Roles

 

In a crisp 70-minute production (with no intermission), they present quite a chilling tale, aided greatly by the ghostly gray and white palette of Rew Tippin’s set design, the lighting by Ryan Finzelberg, as waves of water play against the background, and music by Sean Ragan of Ritual Aesthetic. The end result is a show that is spooky, kinky, tragic, funny…and wet.

The Drowning Girls continues through May 22. For tickets call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com.