By Bernie Krumm Staff Writer
Despite my distaste for the era in which it is set, I thoroughly enjoyed “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” a terrifically funny, but surprisingly sincere comedy brought to life at Hofstra by an immensely talented cast.
The play, set in the 1980s, takes place at a wedding reception and concerns the plight of the bridesmaids, who spend most of the play hiding from the proceedings. This motley crew of disgruntled women has little in common with each other besides their relationship to the bride, whom they mostly despise, and their disdain for the hideous dress they are forced to wear. Despite their differences, they form a bond after learning more about each other and about themselves. Alan Ball, who won the Oscar for writing “American Beauty,” provides the same ingenuity and sensitivity to this play that is seen in his later, more famous works. While characters in other comedic works are often undeveloped archetypes, these characters are unique and well-rounded. Despite being a quick-witted and at times raunchy comedy, the play explores important issues such as feminism, religion and sexual abuse.
This particular production, directed by Royston Coppenger, is staged in the round. My advice would be to sit in the seats directly facing the set rather than on the sides for you may not be able to see important character reactions. This is a relatively small problem, but bears mentioning. The set design mixes the old south with the 1980s counterculture. The set itself consists of a quaint and typically bourgeois bedroom. Posters of The Clash, The Ramones and oddly enough Malcolm X cover the wall and provide a nice contrast with the materialistic feel of the bedroom.
For the most part, the cast members are able to capture the unique nature of their respective characters. Morgan Smith gives a standout performance as Georgeanne, the overdramatic, sexually frustrated and possibly alcoholic childhood friend of the bride. She captures Georgeanne’s maudlin episodes with ease and shows a mastery of comic timing. Lizzie Parot is hysterical as Frances, the painfully innocent, devout Christian cousin of the bride. Parot’s greatest accomplishment is her convincing portrayal of Frances’ naïveté.
Sophie Gagnon shines in the second act by giving a funny and heartfelt performance as Mindy, the lesbian sister of the groom and arguably the most levelheaded of the bridesmaids. Another unexpected pleasure of the second act is Tom Meyer’s wonderfully hammy performance as Tripp Davenport, a typical ‘80s guy and the only male character. Also to his credit, he avoids becoming a caricature by highlighting his character’s serious and sentimental side.
Eliza Hill nails the bitterness and resentment of Meredith, the bride’s bratty younger sister. While she may come on too strong for some, Hill redeems herself by portraying her character’s vulnerability with the utmost sensitivity. I do have one issue with the casting in regards to Corinne Mestemacher as Trisha, one of the bridesmaids and a woman with a questionable reputation. Despite her talent as an actress, her refined performance style fails to convey her character’s suggested promiscuity and casual attitude.
While I did find a few problems here and there (as you might expect), “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” is an overall well-acted comedy that is likely to entertain and perhaps even enlighten prospective audiences.