Five Stars for “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress”

Last Thursday, I had the good fortune of attending a preview performance of Alan Ball’s, “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” as put on by Modjeska Playhouse, in Lake Forest. As I had little to no knowledge of the source material going in, my expectations were virtually null, and as a result, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the colloquial, modern pace of the play.

The play, a sort of bridal drama without the bride, focuses entirely on a group of bridesmaids -- each wearing the titular “same dress” -- on the afternoon of a marriage reception. The play takes place entirely in a single room, with each of the five lead actresses quite literally going through a revolving door as they enter and leave the stage. The action is virtually all dialogue, but the writing -- and performances -- are all so engaging that it hardly feels at all as though one is simply watching five women speak to one another.

It is refreshing to see a performance focused predominantly on women and the myriad of problems they face in a modern world when it comes to marriage, dating, relationships, and the ways people can cope with those problems. Out of the six actors within the play, five are women, and the last -- the only male who appears as more than a passing mention -- is on the stage for only about five minutes near the end of the play. The rest of the time is dedicated to exploring the ways in which women can navigate the world, and the difficulties different life choices entail. As a totally female-focused play, it faced issues from a point of view that I had never considered, and did so with humor and adroit dialogue from voices that so rarely have a chance to speak.   

Along with the sharpness of the screenplay, the success of the play rests heavily on the five leads, each of whom is perfectly cast and performed. The five women are a motley crew of different lifestyles, and each one seems to fulfill a separate niche of personality. Though I had initially feared that the characters would quickly fall into the stereotypes that they seemed to so clearly embody, I was again surprised by how three-dimensional and fleshed-out each character was. Each performance was nuanced and well-formed, and I never once confused characters for one another, and remembered each character motivation clearly.

Overall, the performance was one that I had expected to enjoy, but was unprepared for exactly how much so. For anyone looking for a fast-paced, funny, feminist performance at an affordable price, and within reasonable distance, I would highly recommend Modjeska Playhouse’s performance of, “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”