Full of snark and sass, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is packed with observations about women’s lives, bodies, deliberations, hidden secrets, and over-the-top revelations. The show is full of laugh-out-loud moments as bridesmaids wrestle with their demons of regrets past and current and potential future realities.
Having escaped to an upstairs bedroom after a wedding and freshening up for the obligatory pictures, still wearing gaudy bright pastel pink with gauze and puffy sleeves, five bridesmaids share, talk, and reveal their take on all kinds of aspects of life. They also admit one by one that they’ve all lusted after (and been seduced by) one of the groomsmen and that nobody really likes the bride!
The first act gets you through the chorus line of women. Rebecca Cooley’s Frances is the righteous tea-toting Bible-quoting Christian, Gabby Carter plays Mindy who happens to be a lesbian as pragmatic and no-nonsense, Melanie Kurstin’s Georgeanne is intense with bottled-up loving hurt that spews out as rage, Gwyneth Sholar’s Meredith is zany and off the charts even for this wild bunch, and Brittany Washington’s Trisha is the glue whom everyone confides in. It’s quite a crew to keep up with, and director Dannielle Guy does a masterful job maintaining the rapid-fire dialogue with fully committed energy whether the characters are digging in their abundant shoulder bags, hurling objects with abandon around the room, revealing secrets, clamoring for space, or guzzling booze — these no-nonsense gals do it all.
Meredith gets the high-jinks rolling tearing up the place looking for a hidden joint she tucked in her bedroom and screaming near obscenities to someone on her phone, who we find out later is her mother. Francis is a trusty moral sidekick and the two are shortly joined by the others who enter with baggage of their own. The five together present a moving pinkalicous image and plenty of laughs in their unwearable dresses, unbearably high stiletto heels, with heads adorned with taffeta floral crowns, all hilariously designed by Anna Marquardt.
Some of the segments come across as juvenile as when Georgeanne barrels in inconsolably distressed with being so close to the object of her affection, a groomsman appropriately named Valentine, who ignores her. As the women share their tales and stories, it turns out that the so-called gorgeous dream guy was anything but, and has taken advantage of his looks and lecherous charms over the years. It took mounds of taffeta and crinoline and a wedding to find out that the lusted-after Casanova is a scumbag.
Cameron Powell does a nice job as Tripp, a tuxed usher who nervously though boldly enters the ladies’ enclave seeking out Trisha, who doesn’t quite know how to cope with her feelings. He offers care, attention, and affection, while she protests that she only wants a wanton roll in the sack with the drugs that he has handy. Trisha’s lines cloak her in the veneer of a totally liberated, tough, even reckless woman, but Washington’s generosity and gentleness shine through to give us hope for something deeper and more. While the women are sequestered together, their moments of honesty and shared vulnerability help heal old wounds to hopefully move forward.
Sound design by Christopher Beatley ushers the musical interludes, cell phone rings, and off-stage wedding festivities into the performance space beautifully. Director Guy’s set design features a bed in the middle of the room, crowded with stuffed toys that are used throughout (properties by Amber Kilpatrick), a dressing table, and a gauzily framed window for voyeuristic and mocking commentary of the life going on below.
While the time is 2019, there are enough insinuations to an earlier period (the play was first produced in 1993) to definitely feel a time-warp — language, people labeling, AIDS devastation, even a poster of Malcolm X for a societal aside. Most significant is the lack of agency among the characters, 20-somethings before Sex and the City or even Moana helped young women see a way through the “if he doesn’t like me I’ll die” box. It’s quite fascinating to see how far we’ve come while realizing how far we still need to go.
Five Women is a splendid peek into interior lives to recognize the struggles within with enough resolve and chuckles to help show that no matter who does (or doesn’t) catch the bridal bouquet, life will go on.
Running Time: Two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress presented by Dominion Stage plays through November 20, 2021, at Gunston Theater Two, 2700 South Lang Street in Arlington, VA. The November 13 performance will be American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted. All performances start at 8 pm. Tickets ($25) may be purchased online or at the door.
Dominion Stage’s COVID-19 Protocols are here.
Featuring—Rebecca Cooley, Gwyneth Sholar, Brittany Washington, Melanie Kurstin, Gabby Carter, Cameron Powell
Co-Lighting Designers—Kimberly Crago and Jeff Auerbach
Sound Designer—Christopher Beatley
Set Design—Danielle Guy
Costume Design— Anna Marquardt
Properties Design—Amber Kilpatrick
Stage Manager—Samantha Miren