Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

Five Women

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

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.