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Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014

Madcap Matrimonial Comedy

Theatre Unchained's 'Five Women Wearing the Same Dress'

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Currently playing at Theatre Unchained is Alan Ball’s comedy, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. Set during a Tennessee wedding reception, it tells the story of five bridesmaids getting to know each other as they duck in and out of a bedroom to avoid the party downstairs. Heartwarming and full of sizzling one-liners, the production is a welcome bit of cotton candy.

The cozy bedroom box set (designed by Director James Dragolovich) gives us an intimate view into the social relations that form the heart of the show. Five talented actresses drive the plot.

Ashley Jordan brings inexhaustible chutzpah to the role of Meredith, the bride’s defiant, disgruntled sister. She demonstrates emotional nuance through more serious moments in which a dark secret from the past comes out before the other women. Christina Schauer’s Frances is the show’s “straight woman” with the recurrent refrain: “I don’t do drugs—I’m a Christian.” Humorously playing up the character’s fundamentalist ideology, Schauer nonetheless manages to make Frances sympathetic.

As Georgeanne, Tawnie Thompson is the comedic heart of the show. Enduring a disappointing marriage to a “fish-faced” man (hilariously imitated) because she doesn’t want to be alone, her experience has made her insightful; she is the first to realize that the seemingly perfect bride actually has no real friends. Eva Nimmer plays Trisha, aptly handling her worldly character’s disillusionment with men, while also bearing out the only male-female interaction (opposite Alex Skanavis) shown onstage with lawyerly powers of negotiation.

Finally, Liz Faraglia admirably realizes the groom’s lesbian sister, Mindy—unfortunately the least well written of the female characters. Numerous instances of casual homophobia occur in the show and yet Mindy directly confronts stereotypes only once through a rather vapid conversation about liking beauty pageants as much as the next person.

Ball’s script knocks at the door of several serious topics (namely homophobia and child abuse) but declines to actually go through them. Humor is understandably paramount, but the story feels unresolved with such threads introduced only to be dropped. Script wrinkles aside, though, the production is an enjoyable and lighthearted diversion.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress runs through Feb. 2, at 1024 S. Fifth St. For tickets, call 414-391-7145 or visit theatreunchained.com.