The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who love wedding receptions and those who don’t.
If you’re in the latter camp, you may agree with one character in “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” who describes the wedding reception depicted in the play as “the bland leading the bland.” The same might be said of Carpenter Square Theatre’s production of this tedious 1993 comedy by Alan Ball.
“Five Women” is set in a secondfloor bedroom of an early 20th-century mansion in a Knoxville, Tenn., suburb where a wedding reception is going on downstairs. It’s not clear whose house it is, but they must be local “society.” The eponymous five women are bridesmaids in the nuptials of a bride and groom who are never seen. The bridesmaids include a hard-shell Christian of unrevealed denomination, an English major, an older sexpot, a dissatisfied wife and a lesbian. It’s the English major’s room, and the overstuffed decor is adorned with a Malcolm X poster. Oh, you know those English majors.
Not much happens there. The women have experienced minor triumphs and tragedies in their young, pampered lives. While in the bride’s wedding, they’re not really her friends.
You get the feeling the bride is a real bitch of the big-haired, professional, socially striving type (she has some executive position at Pepsi). The women admire her success in landing a husband in her social class, but also resent her for doing so.
Early 1990s cultural references float by. People are concerned about AIDS. Ted Bundy, Leona Helmsley, Queen Latifah and liposuction are mentioned. Even Kenny G is heard in the pre-curtain music.
CST regular Terry Veal directs the show, which closes the season and should be the company’s last at the Bricktown Hotel & Convention Center. In a curtain speech, Rhonda Clark, CST artistic director, said with fingers about a half-inch apart, they’re “this close” to reaching an agreement on a downtown performance space. The move is welcome.
The script doesn’t give the actors much solid material with which to work. Dina Peek, Louisa Adams, Tiffany Tuggle, Kacy Southerland and Robyn Mitchell play the women with about equal success. Rick Foresee makes an appearance in Act 2 as the token man. His involvement with one of the women gives the piece sort of a quaint ending.
Maybe the playwright is trying to show the world as he would like it to be, instead of the way it really is. But that’s sort of like claiming chivalry is not dead. In one scene relevant to today’s political and social discourse, the Christian gets into a spat with another bridesmaid, blaming “secular humanism” for the country’s problems. Good grief, 20 years later, and they’re still singing from the same hymnal.