'Same Dress' is both funny and poignant

Contributing writerAugust 23, 2013 

Alan Ball’s comedy about drama among bridesmaids is “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” It’s at State Theater.

ANNA SUTTON/HARLEQUIN PRODUCTIONS

  • 'FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS'

    What: Harlequin Productions presents Alan Ball’s comedy about the drama of being a bridesmaid.

    When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus Aug. 28-31 and Sept. 5-7 and 12-14; 2 p.m. Sunday plus Sept. 1 and 8

    Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

    Tickets: $32 general admission, $28 for seniors and military, $20 for students. Discounted rush tickets are available a half-hour prior to curtain. For the Aug. 28 performance, pay what you can.

    More information: 360-786-0151 or harlequinproductions.org

If you’re a bridesmaid, you expect to be one of several women wearing the same dress — and maybe a not-very-attractive dress.

And if you’re a theatergoer, you might expect a play called “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” to be the theatrical equivalent of a chick flick.

“I thought that when I first was handed the piece,” said Aaron Lamb, who is directing the play for Harlequin Productions. “But getting into it, it has a lot more to offer than you might expect from reading the title.

“It’s a really fun, really beautiful piece.”

The show, in its opening weekend, was written by Alan Ball, known for such dark and edgy fare as the 1999 Oscar-winning film “American Beauty,” and TV’s “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood.”

While this play is lighter, it does have some of Ball’s signature style, said Lamb of Seattle.

“What we’ve come to expect from Alan Ball are characters who are funny but have something more to offer,” he said. “It’s a funny, fun, well-constructed piece of theater that touches on some larger issues but in a pretty painless way.”

Set in Knoxville, Tenn., “Five Women” follows the behind-the-scenes dramas of a wedding’s more or less disgruntled bridesmaids as they duck in and out of the brides’ sister’s bedroom, where the play is set.

“As you might guess from the playwright’s résumé, they’re far from stereotypical Southern belles,” Dallas Morning News critic Lawson Taitte wrote in a 2011 review of a production at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. “They sleep around. They do drugs and consume mass quantities of alcohol. They discuss men in the rudest of language and talk about the abortions they’ve had. They’re also enormously funny.”

Lamb is a familiar face to Harlequin regulars, having played reporter Macaulay Connor in this season’s “Philadelphia Story.” He also appeared in “Enchanted April,” “Mating Dance of the Werewolf” and “Jekyll and Hyde.”

However, he hasn’t directed a show in 15 years, which he’s finding challenging as well as fun.

“As an actor, you have an immediate opinion on everything,” he said. “You have to have an eye for how you would play every part. As a director, you can’t be that way. You have to take what the actors bring and help shape that into something cohesive.

“That’s a challenge for every director who comes from on stage.”

Lamb said he hopes to direct another show for Harlequin next season. “I’d forgotten how much I love it and how lucky it makes you feel to gather so many talented people together in one room daily,” he said.

The cast includes Maggie Lofquist (“Philadelphia Story”), Laura Hanson (“My Old Lady”) and Bruce Haasl (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) in the one male role, that of a groomsman, along with Harlequin’s box office manager, Korja Giles, in her first full role at the theater.

As for the dresses? While some productions gussy the women up in puffy pink dresses adorned with huge bows, Harlequin has taken a more restrained approach.

“The dresses are formal floor-length sparkly turquoise with matching fascinator headpieces,” said Linda Whitney, the theater’s co-artistic director. “They are beautiful, but bridesmaids often take issue with their dresses, and these are no different.”

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