Theatre review: Five Women Wearing the Same Dress – this ensemble soars when they are less self-conscious

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Before Alan Ball became famous for writing about undertakers and vampires, he wrote Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, which benefits from some great performances in the Hazel Street Productions presentation currently on stage at the Little Mountain Gallery.

Five Women Wearing the Same DressThe title refers to the tacky bridesmaid dresses that the five wear at the wedding for a bride that none of them particularly likes.  Escaping the reception, the five hang out in the sister-of-the-bride’s bedroom to diss the rest of the guests, each other and even their own lives.

While all five women give solid performances, two were a little more successful than the others: Krista Rand as the naïve Christian fundamentalist Frances and Sheri Rabold as the understated lesbian Mindy.

I did fear at first that Nevada Yates-Robart’s Georgeanne would be all in her furrowed brow, but once she managed to relax, she too was able to bring her character into focus.  While Liz Marleau tended towards some awkward posing, she managed to give us a funny and touching tarnished beauty queen and Chelsey Reist as the rebellious sister was at her best when she wasn’t yelling.

As an ensemble the group was cohesive with a natural connection that these women realize with each other.  Director Sarah Szloboda relies heavily on the skills of her actors and they all soar when they are less self-conscious.

Playwright Ball does seem to be all over the map when it comes to the various issues he tries to interject throughout his play.  With AIDS, abortion and child abuse all getting short shrift, fortunately there is enough in the rest of the writing and the performances to engage us through its 100 minutes.  The same can’t be said however for the one male character Ball throws in at the play’s final minutes, with poor Duncan MacLellan lost in the lingering scent of female hormones.

The awkward space at Little Mountain actually worked for this production with the exits and entrances happening from the alley and the existing windows used to watch the reception happening just on the other side of the sanctuary of Meredith’s room.

One word of warning here, if you go (and you should) the Little Mountain Gallery was bitterly cold on the day we saw it and while they seemed to be prepared by offering blankets in case you get a bit chilly, a sweater is definitely in order.  Fortunately there are enough good performances and not a few laughs to help you forget how cold it is.

4 Out of 5 Stars Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

Written by Alan Ball.  Directed by Sarah Szloboda.  A Hazel Street Productions presentation.  On stage at the Little Mountain Gallery through March 26, 2011.

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