'Five Women' fails to ring true despite good moments


A lot of things can happen when five women wearing the same dress wind up in the same room together smoking pot and sipping champagne.

Playwright Alan Ball's take on the situation is that the women will act just like guys, and his "Five Women in the Same Dress" is a sort of female version og "Animal House."

The comedy, being staged at Theatre Off Jackson by Repertory Actors Workshop, brings five bridesmaids together in the bedroom of the bride's little sister. Escaping a dull reception after an elaborate Southern wedding, the women loll around complaining about men as they ogle them from afar, boasting about their sexual prowess, or bemoaning a lack of it, and occasionally treating each other obnoxiously in little confrontations that are glossed over rather than resolved.

Frances (Loraine Mesaros) is a Christian who is falling for the bartender at the party. Trisha (Nyree Clark) is a playgirl who doesn't want commitments. Georgeanne (Colleen Burke) is unhappily married. Mindy (Audrey Fan) is a lesbian who went to charm school. And Meredith (Angela DiMarco), the angry sister of the bride, had a dirty little secret.

While this assortment of personalities has all sorts of potential, Ball's scenarios don't ring true, and the characters float around each other like pink balloons rather than people.

He cops out on the most dramatic moment of the evening allowing a sexual predator to not only get away but take off with an attractive woman. And by introducing a knight in shining armor, Tripp (T.J. Langley), in the last scene, Ball belies everything that has gone before. This is a playwright who can't decide if he wants to be Tennessee Williams or a fairytale writer.

Director Gail Wamba hasn't done much to improve on Ball's script. She has all the women play at being Southern belles. The sing-song drawls, constant primping and to much giggling makes the women all the more shallow.

There are some good moments in "Five Women," however. The most hilarious is Mindy's parodying of the Miss America pageants that she's watched for 20 years. In admitting that her marriage is loveless and her husband callous, Georgeanne draws sympathy, and ther is a mysterious air about Trisha that makes her the most interesting of the five.

The most honest element of the production is the costumes. Lee Ann Hittenberger has created some truly out of date but typical bridesmaids' gowns. They are green with puffed sleeves, the kind of dress you wouldn't be caught dead in except at a wedding.

David Hsieh's set is also perfect. He has captured the room of a young woman who is still a girl at heart. Decorated with lovely antiques, a boom box and Malcolm X poster, it tells the story of a woman stuck in a world that she longs to escape.

For Ball's play to live up to the costumes and the set, it would take a serious rewrite. Stringing girl talk together is best left up to the Spice Girls on MTV, where flashy visuals make up for vapidity.

June 27, 1998


Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. By Alan Ball. Directed by Gail Wamba. Produced by the Repertory Actors Workshop at Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S. Tickets $6-$12, 206-364-3283.

© 1998 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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