We’ve all been there. A wedding, hopefully not our own, that we wished we could escape. That feeling is only heightened when one is dressed in chiffon. In Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, now at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse through March 4, a group of disgruntled bridesmaids find a sanctuary of sorts in an upstairs bedroom while their frenemy’s over-the-top wedding reception rages outside.
Academy Award-winning writer, director and producer Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under, American Beauty and, most recently, HBO’s Here and Now) wrote the play in 1993, setting it in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early 1990s. It might revolve around five women wearing the same dress, but the characters are as different as a circle of friends can be. There is the evangelical Christian, Frances (Sarah Boughton); the angst-ridden sister of the bride, Meredith (Maddie Boyd); the cynical beauty, Trisha (Kelly Whitaker); the unhappily married Georgeanne (Kelsey Klinghoffer); and the outsider, Mindy (Julie Fergus). Each woman seeks solitude and reprieve from forced social niceties (and naughtiness) only to find she isn’t alone. Hiding from past loves, regrettable indiscretions, painful memories and a bride whom none of them particularly likes, the women lose their inhibitions and find an unexpected sisterhood.
What plays out among them is funny and serious, lewd and revelatory, silly and deeply honest. The cast is wonderful, speaking the sometimes difficult truths of their characters with an easy Southern drawl. They deliver Ball’s punchlines and daggers with varying degrees of precision, but the overall effect is immersive, as if one is a fly on the wall in the right place at the right time.
Well-directed by Brian Robert Harris, the play flies by, thanks to the cast’s comedic timing and Ball’s pitch-perfect dialogue. (The faint of heart should know going in that it’s peppered with F-bombs and deals with mature subject matter.) Set designer Eric R. Umali created the quintessential teenage girl’s room, a balance of nostalgia and rebellion. Costume designer Laura Comstock dressed the women in suitably hideous identical bridesmaid dresses that only emphasize that each woman is a singular individual who won’t ever — and could never — just blend in.
Laura Comstock, Chris Bryson and Kim Demmary managed the props, ranging from champagne flutes to an appetizer platter. (One hopes Fergus doesn’t get sick from all the pupus she pops during the show.) The talented crew also includes producer, assistant director and stage manager Jolyn Johnson, lighting designer Leigh Puhek, sound designer Dean Johnson and light and sound operator Kent Bowers.
Rounding out the almost all-female cast is the always endearing David White, who plays Tripp, a man seeking Trisha’s affection. The only other male character is one who is merely mentioned — but who figures almost too heavily in the play. It’s interesting that Ball chose to have the women’s conversations revolve so much around men, and one predatory man in particular. In reality, women talk about so much more. Still, the five women wearing the same dress are flesh and blood, flawed and radiant. And this is their day.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress through March 4 at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo. For tickets and more information, call 388-5716 or visit www.skywayplayhouse.org.