Pathos in pink

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

Rachael Lewis, Heather Edmiston and Janine Burgener play bridesmaids seeking refuge from a wedding reception.

Rachael Lewis, Heather Edmiston and Janine Burgener play bridesmaids seeking refuge from a wedding reception.

Photo By David Robert

Rated 4.0

OK, the five actresses in Brüka Theatre’s production of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress aren’t literally wearing the same dress. There’s no voluminous tent big enough for a bowling team.

The play’s title refers to five similar dresses—pink Bridesmaid Barbie gowns—on five women whose sizes and shapes vary. The dresses, with matching pill box hats, aren’t the women’s garments of choice.

“I look like a ‘ho from The Twilight Zone,” quips Mindy (played by Kahele). Mindy is the lesbian sister of the groom.

The glorious occasion is Tracy’s wedding, a Southern middle-class shindig. We never meet Tracy, never see the $6,000 wedding dress she bought with her own earnings from her swank job at Pepsi. Instead, we’re flies on the wall of a bedroom belonging to Tracy’s kid sister, Meredith (Janine Burgener).

Meredith is a recent college grad who wears a black leather jacket over her pink dress and has a Malcolm X poster over her bed. When we first meet her, she’s trying to remember where she hid her pot.

Before long, all the women are hiding out in Meredith’s room, looking out her window at the reception’s goings on.

“The bland leading the bland,” Meredith says, hunting for a lighter.

The five women wander in and out of the bedroom with champagne and cake. The event’s heightened emotions gives each woman a chance to break down, tell stories and bond with new friends.

Georgeanne (Rachael Lewis) tells about her relationship with the bride’s ex-boyfriend Tommy Valentine, who’d gotten her knocked up in college. She tells of going, by herself, to have an abortion.

More recently, the now-married Georgeanne ran into Tommy at a bar. This led to a loving interlude in a parking lot, near a Dumpster.

“I will never ever be able to smell garbage again without thinking of Tommy,” she says.

The women get stoned and drunk—except for Frances (Jamie Plunkett) a teetotalin’ Baptist sort who doesn’t use likker or drugs. Frances gets a makeover.

Diehard party girl Trisha (Heather Edmiston) carries a purse full of condoms and a determination to let no man get the best of her. Of course, she’s the one at risk of falling in love—with Tripp (John Rutski).

Each of the six cast members is stunningly adept in her or his role. Southern accents aren’t overwhelming—and aren’t forgotten halfway through the second act.

Plunkett is hilariously self-righteous as the ultra- conservative Frances, swooning over costume jewelry that looks like real diamonds, not missing a chance to evangelize her comrades and expressing shock that Mindy’s a lesbian.

“She looks like a real woman!”

The play’s attention to comedic detail bears the mark of playwright Alan Ball. Five Women Wearing the Same Dress was written back when the Oscar-winning American Beauty screenwriter was a starving New York playwright.

The dresses, in their floofy pink hideousity, aptly represent the garments contemporary women end up wearing, like it or not. We’re thrust into roles that result in a plague of denial and self-destruction: AIDs, eating disorders, abortion, depression, sex, marriage and, finally, an emerging sisterhood.

“There’s an art to wearing a gown,” one woman says, attempting to “float” across the room. The women discuss having ribs removed and other “Nazi war experiments” performed for vanity’s sake.

“We are just as barbaric as those Aztec guys who used to play soccer with heads."