Alan Ball is the creator of Six Feet Under and writer of True Blood and American Beauty. Originally from the South, he also wrote Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, which depicts five bridesmaids at an elaborate Southern wedding, circa 1993, escaping to a bedroom of the family home while the reception swirls about below.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is playing this Friday through Sunday at the Plaza Playhouse Theater, 4916 Carpinteria Ave. in Carpinteria.
The bride’s younger sister, the groom’s older sister, and assorted friends and acquaintances make up this motley quintet. At first it seems all they have in common is the poofy pink dress, but as everyone loosens up a bit through substances and emotion, they find shared ground, not to mention buried secrets.
Leah Victoria Bleich, as the straight-laced good girl Frances, takes the character from seemingly one-dimensional to unexpectedly layered. She surprises everyone, perhaps most of all herself, when she finds the fortitude to express her beliefs fervently and with ferocity.
Playing Mindy, the groom’s big sis, Ashley Saress Lemmex has a choice role as the one bridesmaid with a decidedly different perspective on the whole shebang. With a nonchalant charm, she doesn’t seem to care that her sexuality confounds the other women.
Katelynn Tustin is excellent as Georgeanne, an estranged friend and once-rival of the bride. She is in turns tough and tender, and gets some of the best lines, which she delivers with aplomb.
As Meredith, the little sister who has been living in the shadow of the perfect bride, Tracy (whom we never meet), Allison Lewis Towbes gets to sink her teeth into a role with lots of angst and restless rebellion. She does a wonderful job, and shows she can be soft when necessary.
Marisol Miller-Wave is fantastic as Trisha, the one who seems to have it all together, in a jaded, world-weary sort of way. She remains in control, taking care of everyone else, until she finds herself alone with the guy she’s had her eye on. They begin a flirtatious exchange, but before long, their conversation begins to uncover the layers under which Trisha has buried her heart.
As Tripp, Josh Jenkins has a soft-spoken Southern charm that can verge on slick, but he adds nuance to the character with enough honesty and vulnerability to keep him appealing.
Under the fine direction of Kate Bergstrom, this is a highly entertaining evening, with many laugh-out-loud moments and some thought-provoking ones, just for good measure. It may leave you feeling thankful for your true friends, the ones who would even wear an awful dress for you.
Special pricing is available for groups of five, in case you want to bring your girlfriends for a festive night out. Click here for tickets and more information.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.