FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS by Alan Ball
AJAX COMMUNITY THEATRE
Produced by Mark and Sarah –Liis Salonius, Directed by Michael McFarland, Stage Managed by Dillon Hunter
With: Mireille Awad-Arnberg , Sharon Berman, Linda Chapman, Sam Smilovic, Amber Dawn Vibert and Lincoln Trudeau.
To borrow a quote from the token male, Tripp, in FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS, there is veritable ‘major babe action’ going on the stage at Ajax’s St. Francis Centre. Yes, this line when taken out of context does sound sexist; however, writer Alan Ball has woven a complex series of life events into an engaging story line that keeps its audience hooked. Yes it is that same Alan Ball who penned two groundbreaking and phenomenal works – AMERICAN BEAUTY (with Kevin Spacey) and the televised series SIX FEET UNDER (where the I learned quickly the meaning of the term binge watch).
This play becomes a skewering commentary on the state of matrimony, and the Ajax Community Theatre has taken a risk in staging it last week and this coming week. This risk was worth it. ACT’s production has hit its’ stride, and you should go see it. Be prepared and forewarned as salty language, naughty innuendo and adult situations abound aplenty.
Director Michael McFarland likes the play’s premise. The life moments of these characters are dissected and analyzed in the upstairs bedroom of an ostentatious wedding reception at a Knoxville estate. Identically yet hideously clad in peach coloured bridesmaid dresses, these women are hiding out from the downstairs invited guests. Mr. McFarland points out that women bond far quicker than men do in establishing relationships. In order to make these relationships believable, he has cast five beautiful and talented local Durham Region ladies who, first and foremost, like and respect each other. They have had a lot of experience in live theatre and understand clearly the intricacies of female relationships.
Another reason to see this production - these ladies are a true ensemble of actors who listen well and respond to each other credibly. We see a catty and bitchy side to each character, and this makes for even more fun as the story clips along at a good pace. The challenge of any live comedy is to find those peaks and valleys where you have that split second for a creative comic effect, and these ladies have been successful in discovering and sharing those moments with the audience.
Since I’ve never read or seen this play before, I was also intrigued by one dramatic moment where one of the particular characters makes reference to a sexual assault a few years ago. I won’t give any spoilers, but this moment in the production slows down the quickened pace due to this delicate subject matter. There was a hush over the audience as I think each of us wondered how this matter was going to resolve itself, as sexual assault is criminal. I was impressed with how the actors involved treated this material with dignity, compassion and conviction before the comic pace picked up once again.
The arrival of one of the groomsmen, Tripp (played by Lincoln Trudeau) adds a further layer of character development to the plot. Mr. Trudeau is a solid actor who also reveals his performance experience in his revealing scene with Trish (played by Mireille Awad-Arnberg). Both actors handle the cut and thrust banter of word play with heightened sexual chemistry and build it to the point where we can sense that a consummation of some sort will take place in the near future.
I imagine a good deal of work would have had to be done on the Appalachian dialect of Tennessee. Thankfully, Mr. McFarland and his cast did not create caricatures or stereotypes. Lighting and sound cues are clear, crisp and exact. The intimate stage at the St. Francis Centre allows for a specific set design that helps focus the action. Nevertheless, there is a quibble on the set design and construction. The shaking wall as doors close periodically breaks the focus that we are actually in a room of a grand Tennessee estate.
FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS continues this Thursday February 23, Friday February 24 and Saturday February 25 at Ajax’s St. Francis Centre, 78 Church Street South at 8 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door or visit the website for further information.