Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

Rated 4.0 Am I seeing Five times two? Last July, there was a heads-up little production of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress at the Actor’s Theatre.Most folks missed that show, but you have a second chance. The play is back on the boards at River Stage, in a slightly more polished production (featuring an entirely different, more seasoned cast). The River Stage version further benefits from fancier sets, smarter sound design and more media visibility.

The script by Alan Ball (best known for his film American Beauty) involves five very different women who are bridesmaids at a big society wedding in Knoxville, Tenn. As they huddle behind closed doors after the ceremony, the champagne flows, and they let down their hair. They talk about cute boyfriends, deceitful ex-lovers, boring husbands, AIDS and more. A recurring topic is the unseen Tommy Valentine, who’s handsome and flirtatious and (as it turns out) has slept with three of the bridesmaids.

There’s a lot of raunchy chick talk—this show’s not for kids. There are also larger subjects moving in the deeper water. Though hugely self-indulgent, these women still think about right and wrong and still hope for a good relationship (even as they settle for a quickie).

Director Maggie Adair Upton gets good performances from Kelly Vent (as Georgeanne, stuck in a bad marriage), Jana Wilhelmi (the unapologetic libertine Trisha), Kate Griffith (Frances, the virginal Christian), Michelle Hill (simmering kid sister Meredith) and Shaleen Schmutzer (lesbian relative Mindy). John Catching plays a charming seducer who enters in the final scene.