BWW Review: FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS is a humorous, yet timely feminist piece

BWW Review: FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS is a humorous, yet timely feminist piece
Courtesy of Southwestern University

FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS is presented by Southwestern University's Sarofim School of Fine Arts. Written by Alan Ball, this comedy premiered in 1993 at New York's Manhattan Class Company. Although the play was written over twenty years ago and is set in the late 80's, it tackles many topics still relevant today. From personal issues such as love, relationships, and marriage; to societal matters like gender inequality, homophobia, and religion.

The play tells the story of a group of reluctant southern bridesmaids hiding out in a bedroom after their friend's over-the-top wedding. There is Frances (Ashley Howell), a self-professing Christian virgin; Meredith (Bonnie Lambert), the bride's rebellious younger sister; Georgeanne (Olivia Wise), whose heartbreak over an affair with a former fling and her own failed marriage drives her to drink; Mindy (Savannah Ritz), the groom's cheerful, but clumsy lesbian sister; and Trisha (Joan Milburn), the bride's friend from college who's jaded views are challenged when she meets the groom's cousin, Tripp (Luke Oliver). Each woman has a reason for avoiding the festivities downstairs, but as the evening goes on this eclectic group reveal secrets and discover a common bond with one another.

Performances by the predominantly female cast are strong and genuine. There is not a weak link among the actors and they carry out director, Kathleen Juhl's vision of showcasing five very different and complex women with ease and focus. While every performance is compelling, it is Joan Milburn as Trisha that gives the strongest of the evening. Playing a hardened, statuesque beauty, Milburn shines and brings a burgeoning vulnerability behind her character's tough exterior. Not to be outdone, Ashley Howell as straight-laced Frances is the picture of subtle strength. The quick, intense exchanges between the actors as two women with opposing viewpoints are among the finest moments of the two-act production.

Technical elements for the show are also very well done. Worth Payton's design of Meredith's well-appointed room is executed flawlessly. Every detail of the grand space has been thought out, including injecting Meredith's personality with personal, somewhat out of place items. Costumes by Clarissa Boerner are also a high point of the production. Tasked with dressing five women in identical outfits, Boerner manages to create designs that are both well suited to each actor and celebrate the garish wedding fashion of the eighties.

Southwestern University's production of FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS is a humorous, yet timely feminist piece. It takes a close look at gender stereotypes, relationships between women, and the rampant sexism that most will face in their lifetime. These important messages are delivered in a quality production with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and eighties nostalgia, making it a great addition to any theatre lover's must-see list.

FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS is now running at Sarofim's Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater (1001 E. University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626) through October 1st, Friday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm.

Approximate running time: Two hours with one ten-minute intermission.

*Includes Adult Language, Mature Content, and Nudity

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