Review: 'Five Women Wearing the Same Dress'

Alan Ball's play hits the Berlin Theatre this weekend.

_Playing 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 22 to Sunday, June 24. Tickets: $10_

Presented by Talking Horse Productions at the Berlin Theatre, 210 North Tenth Street

Sidney Lumet’s intense jury masterpiece “12 Angry Men” is the best example of telling a story from one room based mostly on the characters’ dialogue and interactions. Though Alan Ball’s “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” isn’t exactly “12 Angry Men,” it comes close. Not only do these women get angry, but they also erupt in anguish, heartbreak and hopefulness while admitting their love lives and sordid affairs to one another.

The kind of production, be it a movie or a play, with a single set is hard to find in today’s quick-cut ADD direction. “12 Angry Men” was successful because of the audience’s longer attention span and excellent filmmaking. That jspeaks volumes for “Five Women,” which was entertaining and endearing thanks to Ed Hanson’s gifted direction and handling of Ball’s great writing.

The five women are bridesmaids at Tracy McClure’s gaudy wedding and wear the same “ugly” dress (although, as a male, the hot pink and turquoise gown looked fine to me). At the reception, Frances (Hillary Carter), Trisha (Star Rodriguez), Georgeanne (Kirsten Malinee) and Mindy (Dana Bocke) hide from the exhausting bride and family with Meredith (Elaina James) in her room upstairs.

Ball’s writing perfectly weaves in details of each woman’s past and relation to one another. The best example of this is the sizzling Tommy Valentine — think currently insane Charlie Sheen with his youthful swagger as the Wild Thing from “Major League.” All of the women have some sort of history with cheating and womanizing Valentine.

But he never makes a real appearance in “Five Women” — the women only talk about him throughout the production. He’s such an important character, yet the audience got all of their dirty secrets on him solely from the women's confessions of him taking their virginities or knocking them up.

Even with the detailed dialogue, “Five Women” exceeds expectations with the passionate performances of its five leads and Hanson’s direction. Directing five women, let alone women with that much emotion on stage, could be difficult for just one man to do.

Though “12 Angry Men” was a taut and exciting debate over reasonable doubt, “Five Women” is a tender and funny tale about a group of very different bridesmaids having discussions and growing closer. To be fair, it’s kind of easy to have that intimacy with a single setting.

But that’s another great thing about single-set productions: closer actors and better performances.

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