Playwright: Alan Ball
At: Artistic Home, 1420 W. Irving Park
Phone: (773) 404-1100; $18
Runs through: July 20
Weddings are perfect dramatic and comedic fodder. After all, they often bring out the best (and—more likely—the worst) in
everyone, tension is high due to them being a major rite of passage, and there's often an undercurrent of jealousy, sexuality, despair,
and sometimes, meanness.
All of these emotions are in delightful conflict in Alan Ball's deceptively simple, and hugely entertaining, Five Women Wearing the
Same Dress. Ball is best known as the creator of HBO's Six Feet Under and mastermind behind the film, American Beauty. You would
expect a great script from such a potent chronicler of the human state, and Ball does not disappoint. The conceit is to take five
bridesmaids, in typically ugly dresses, and have them hide out in a bedroom while the reception takes place on the lawn below. The
device works, as the quintet of five very disparate women enter and exit, their reasons for escape from the reception all different, but
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We are placed in the voyeuristic position of being able to spy on the bedroom of Meredith (Laura Coleman), the bride's younger
sister, a hell-raiser bent on disruption. Meredith harbors a rage that seems out of proportion to a mere distaste for the frou-frou pomp
and circumstance of her 'perfect' older sister's wedding. As the evening progresses, we discover Meredith's dark secret. We also
learn much about the other bridesmaids. Trish (Tasha Anne James) is a fiery redhead with a promiscuous past and a cynical outlook.
Francis (Kate Tummelson) is Trish's polar opposite, young, naïve, virginal, and a born-again Christian. It's no surprise when the
sparks fly between this pair. Georgeanne (D. Jenna Wasmuth) is the baneful embodiment of a loveless marriage and the sometimes
poignant, sometimes hilarious woman on the edge, determined to cast off the chains of domestic disappointment in exchange for a
wedding reception fling. Mindy (Sabrina Lloyd), the lesbian cousin of the groom, is used to being an outcast at family functions and
her outsider viewpoint of what constitutes physical attraction and love ('I like a nice pair of hooters.') offers a counterpoint for the
The great thing about Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is that Ball takes a deceptively comic romp and maintains a firm
reign on what is often a dark undercurrent, hinting at the longing for connection that makes up most of our lives. What makes this a
great script is that its themes are all dramatized; there's no exposition. This is a play that speaks through its characters, and in how
Luckily, this pithy, insightful, and good-time script has landed in very capable hands. The Artistic Home, in its tiny storefront space,
has the kind of creative chops that many much bigger downtown venues should have … and don't. Director Patrick Thornton does
deft work here, bringing out the best in a talented ensemble. No quibbles here … never before has hiding out from a main event been
so delightfully entertaining, funny, heart wrenching and, ultimately, satisfying.