Life is pretty serious these days. A few hours of froth is just what we need for a brief escape, and Stray Dog Theatre has stepped up to provide some. Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is not – as I had originally surmised – a story of women at a fancy party discovering that some nefarious saleswoman sold them all the same outfit. Oh, no. It’s more complex than that. It’s about bridesmaids.
The Southern wedding, the wretchedly over-the-top dresses, the large, tastefully florid bedroom overlooking the reception, it’s all ingredients for a story that’s part sit-com, part adult drama-com. It’s the room of the bride’s sister, Meredith (Lindsay Gingrich), and neither she, the one who hates her dress the most, nor the other bridesmaids want to join in the festivities. Already-married Georgeanne (Shannon Nara) , finds herself distraught at seeing the single guy she had a fling with and is still crazy about. (He’s putting the moves on another woman, nothing unusual for him.) The world-wise and slightly frayed at the edges Trisha (Sarajane Alverson) is just going through the motions, too, bored and looking for a new fling. Frances (Eileen Engel), the determinedly wide-eyed innocent whose motif is “I don’t _______. I’m a Christian”, a little awkward socially, perhaps, just wants to hang out with the In Crowd girls. The groom’s sister, Mindy (Frankie Ferrari) , mostly watches the goings-on when she arrives, but then chimes in with considerable wisdom. Late in the second act, the much-discussed Tripp (Kevin O’Brien), the groom’s single cousin enters the bedroom and the mix.
It’s not a subtle show, but there are plenty of one-liners that are often delivered with style, Engel’s trademark lines, for instance, almost get to the point of the audience delivering it out loud. Alverson is excellent, just jaded enough without seeming tawdry. Nara is over-the-top in her despair, just how it should be. Ferrari’s character’s near-elegance and comfort in her own skin is worth watching. And Gingrich has fun with her role, stomping about in an old pair of Keds with the dress in question, but often her lines are muffled and lost to the audience. O’Brien’s Tripp seems like a solid, reliable guy, the sort someone might actually want to meet at a wedding.
Gary F. Bell, the director, keeps things moving right along at a speedy pace, right for this sort of play. He also designed the set, quite perfect in its way. Engel, who plays Frances, also did the costumes, which are not full-out ghastly, but just creeping over the lines to contrast with the bride, who, we discover, is wearing a simple and elegant gown. The bride is, apparently, a piece of work. None of the three un-related bridesmaids are close friends with her these days, and some of them never were. Did she set all this up, including inviting various ex-boyfriends to create chaos at the wedding? To contrast them with her? We never know. The ending is a bit of a reach, but the evening is enough fun to make up for it.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress
through June 25
Stray Dog Theatre
Tower Grove Abbey