Most weddings are all about the bride -
her dress, her hair, her flowers. Sometimes there’s a passing
glance at the groom. But in Alan Ball’s play, "Five Women
Wearing the Same Dress," the wedding is all about the guests
- or at least about the five women who take refuge in the sister
of the bride’s upstairs bedroom while the festivities continue
"Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," first produced by the Manhattan Class Company in 1993, is now on stage at The Impact Theatre under the direction of Daniel Angus Cox, who recently directed Impact Theatre’s "The Tenth Man."
In this play, Ball exhibits the same concerns that were further developed in his script for the film "American Beauty" - the futility and meaninglessness of life in late-20th century America.
Although Scott and Tracy are the presumably happy couple, we never see them. Instead, we are introduced to a crew of neurotic women with a penchant for getting involved with the wrong man or with no man at all.
Meredith (the excellent Kira Jelincic) is Tracy’s rebellious younger sister who is confused about everything except the fact that she doesn’t like much of anything. Trisha, sensitively portrayed by Toni Kasper, is the town slut who aspires to nothing more than sex, drugs and one-night stands. Georgeanne, (the funny and sad Valerie Gilbert) who is stuck in a loveless and sexless marriage, is the willing victim of a man who continues to prey on her vulnerability.
Mindy (Christine Drayer) is the sister of the groom, an out-of-the-closet lesbian who is loud, funny and the most clear-sighted of the whole bunch.
And Frances (the very convincing Michelle Mullins) is a Christian, as she’ll tell anyone willing to listen, a young lady almost ridiculous in her sincerity and devotion.
These five women, all members of the bridal party, wear dresses they don’t like and are celebrating the nuptials of people they either detest or don’t really know.
Trisha and Georgeanne bear old grudges over stolen boyfriends. Mindy carries a new grudge engendered when Tracy refuses to allow her lover to come to the reception. Meredith seems determined to create havoc for reasons that are never fully explained. And Frances is mostly interested in how to seduce or let herself be seduced, by the young lawyer who is tending bar, in a way that’s suitable to her Christian upbringing.
If by now there’s still anyone who hasn’t thought, "This sounds a lot like Tennessee Williams," let’s add that the play takes place in Knoxville, Tenn., and the women all talk in southern drawls that roam from sassy to sweet, always with a suggestive undertone.
Indeed Ball, with his dry wit, ever-present sensuality and focus on the female psyche, is squarely in the tradition of Williams, William Inge and Eugene O’Neill - despite his updated dialogue and liberal use of the "F" word.
Watching five women wearing the same dress bare their souls is not necessarily the most pleasant experience. But Cox and his cast of skilled actors manage to make Ball’s characters at times hilariously funny and at times intensely amiable.
In the second half of "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," Trip Davenport (the solid Chad Corbitt), a sincere and serious young man, comes into the bedroom looking for Trisha. It’s not quite evident why Ball chose to write a male character into his play. His five women do a fine job illustrating the ironies, the injustices and the pain of human existence.
One can only suppose that Ball felt it necessary to show that even when some women get what they want, they cannot be diverted from their path to self-destruction. While Trip may not hurt the play greatly and Corbitt’s acting is more than adequate, his entrance does seem to break the rhythm and mood and certainly doesn’t add much.
These women are fully aware of the foolishness that drives women to starve themselves so they will have figures pleasing to men, or let a man make love to them by a garbage dump. At times, they are stridently competitive; at other times, they are overwhelmingly supportive. Mostly they realize that they are all in the same boat, that they may be about to capsize, and that they only have each other.
"Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" provides a few lessons and more than a few laughs. Wear whatever you want, but don’t miss it.
"Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" continues on May 10, 11 and 12 at 8 pm at The Impact Theatre (190 Underhill Ave.). For reservations, call (718) 390-7163. Tickets are $15.
©2001 Community News Group
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