Given the success of the 2011 film Bridesmaids, it's not surprising that McKeesport Little Theater would unearth the 20-year-old Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. This 1993 comedy-drama about misbehaving bridesmaids is an early work by writer Alan Ball, who went on to award-winning success in television (Six Feet Under) and cinema (American Beauty). A bit of a character-driven mishmash, Five Women represents a bold choice with challenges for director Lora Oxenreiter.
The setting is the 1980s, when the irresistible force of the Boomers' sexual revolution met the immovable object of AIDS, the scariest (but not only) new strain of STD. And besides the lusty tales of varying graphicness and regular f-bombs, the script seriously disrespects religiosity of the Christian variety — serendipitously a hot topic in town lately.
The ladies of the wedding party don't particularly like the bride, so they tend to hover around the luxe bedroom of little sister/bridesmaid Meredith (lovely Elizabeth Pegg) while she progressively spazzes out. Sharing champagne and stories are the childhood but definitely ex-friends of the unseen bride, Trisha (Megan Elizabeth May-Mitchell) and Georgeanne (April May Ohms, whose spirited performance is damaged by distractingly bad hairpieces). Elizabeth Glyptis adds a charming note of naiveté as the ugly duckling/swan Frances, and Lisa Bompiani-Smith brings spice and sympathy as the groom's sister. Then, as they say, hilarity ensues, along with roller-coaster emotions and intimate woes.
The costumes by Darlene Gavron are indeed magnificently awful, a five-times-unbecoming poufy ensemble of disco-era peach that almost but not quite avoids clashing with the pinkish hues of the set. Set designer TJ Firneno whipped up quite a stunner with the help of Susan Wardezak and painters Jacob Wadswoth, Rose-Lorene Miller and Dorothy Fallows.
For those of us who are contemporaries of the characters, Five Women trips down memory lane with uncomfortable recollections and reassuring chuckles.