Review by Lisa Purchase
Photos by David Defoe
"No thanks, I don't smoke … I'm a Christian." When that line, one of the earliest in the play, caught my attention, I started to sit up and take notice. I went to see Five Women Wearing the Same Dress (Pit & Balcony's third show of the season) last Saturday night, expecting a pretty tame show … it's just a straight up comedy set in one room through the whole show, and the entire cast is only the five women and, briefly, one man. Tame, right?
Then the one-liners started zinging past me: "Things better pick up at the reception—I want something really sick and messed up to happen!" … If I get to Heaven and there isn’t an open bar, God has some serious explaining to do." … "I may be a bitch and I may be a slut but I do have SOME standards!" … and, strangely enough, "Jesus wept."
Turns out these five women, mismatched bridesmaids for the never seen but much maligned Tracy, have a lot to talk about. I got out a notepad to jot notes for this review, and by the end of the first act I had scribbled down so many one-liners I had filled three pages. In their early banter, they get around to covering (or at least mentioning) blow jobs, pot smoking, lesbians, condoms, fags and fashion, bad reputations, useless English degrees, psycho killers, foot fetishes, the Rapture, and page 67 of The Godfather. While the five women are serving in a public capacity—with their hair appropriately coiffed, their shoes appropriately uncomfortable, and their (same) dresses appropriately pouffy—they let down their hair (and shoes, and sometimes dresses) when they retreat from the reception to the bride's bedroom, and we get their more casual side. They argue and drink and swear and trash the wedding guests ("Everybody here is so aggressively normal … it's like the bland leading the bland.") and are surprised to find common ground in their mutual dislike of the bride.
As the story-lines develop, things get a little more serious in the second act, and it turns out there's more to these women than first meets the eye. Dawn Goodrow Morrell does some really fine work as Tricia, a woman who has been through too much with too many men and is ready to live as a nun. Rebecca Sanford plays the annoyingly devout Frances; Brittany Frost plays the rebellious and precocious little sister of the bride, Meredith; Linda Mitlyng plays the non-man-hating lesbian, Mindy; Terri Lagos Dillabough plays the inebriated and lovelorn Geargeann (and has the best entrance line); and Michael Duffield enters the scene near the end of the play, as Tripp, to counter Tricia's dismissal of the whole male gender.
Even the set offers more than expected: despite its pedestrian locale, the one-room set is lush with details—beautiful wallpaper and furnishings, a multi-level topography, doors and windows and interesting nooks and crannies to lend depth and variety, and a beautifully hand-painted hardwood floor (for anyone sitting high enough up to see it). Pit & Balcony is also experimenting with a new sound system comprised of mics hidden within the set itself (instead of on the actors, or hanging in the air above them), and the sound for this show was flawless … not a hiss or pop to be heard, just the actors' voices, each one of them loud and clear. It is to be hoped that Pit & Balcony manages to obtain this system permanently … it lends a lot to a show like this one when every line is heard perfectly.
Directed by Linda Rebney, the show runs about two hours (with intermission), and you can catch it at Pit & Balcony Community Theatre this coming weekend, January 29-31, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Check the P&B's Website for further information (or look them up on Facebook).
[p.s. As an aside, I have to comment on the audience behavior I was subjected to at this particular show. The woman sitting next to me was loudly chewing gum throughout the entire performance, mouth open, snapping and gnawing right in my ear. A couple rows back and to the left, an octogenarian was aggressively crinkling a bag of M&Ms every three minutes or so. And then, in the middle of the show, someone's cell phone went off. Okay, it happens … people forget, or thought they switched it to Silent but didn't hit OK and it didn't take … it happens. And people sit there and wince and endure the ringing until it stops. But then, the woman two seats in from the aisle, fifth-row-center, took the ringing cell phone out of her bag … AND ANSWERED IT! AND PROCEDED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION, RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE THEATER, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SHOW. SITTING CLOSE ENOUGH THAT THE PEOPLE ACTING ON STAGE COULD SEE AND HEAR HER! It was absolutely amazing. I was really wishing I were sitting close enough to reach her, but in retrospect, it's probably better that I wasn't. People, let's do better than that, shall we?]
© Lisa Purchase, 2010