Pretty much every emotion is tackled during the course of Central Alberta Theatre’s latest offering – Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.
Shows run through to April 7th in the Nickel Studio with curtain at 7:30 p.m.
As mentioned, the two-act production, very well directed by Craig Scott, provides its talented cast with plenty to work with as the tale unfolds.
The premise is relatively simple – we are at the home of a well-to-do Knoxville family for the wedding of a couple we do not meet, but we do become very well-acquainted with the beleaguered set of bridesmaids who are taking refuge in sister-of-the-bride Meredith’s bedroom.
The thing is, none of these women even remotely likes the bride – although that isn’t something they are all immediately aware of.
Well, Meredith (played with plenty of searing, caustic wit by Alex Taylor) isn’t one bit pleased with the wedding, or with her family, or with how society runs in general. She’s a very unhappy girl – and as the play unfolds, we learn more about her troubled past.
Then there is Tricia (Nicole Leal).
Tricia is a feisty, hard-edged, spirited woman who revels in her freedom and independence.
But she too is rather miserable and world-weary. As is Georgeanne (Tara Rorke) who is unhappily married and searching elsewhere for fulfillment.
Then there is the comparatively optimistic Mindy (Ashley Mercia).
As a lesbian, Mindy has been treated as an outsider by many people in this family and their social circles, but she opts for a largely light-hearted, realistic view of things and provides lots of bright spots as the story moves along.
Finally, we have Frances (Kirstin Merriman) who is straight-laced to a ‘T’ and is continually reminding everyone that the reason for her strict morals is that she is a Christian.
So this group – with their troubles, pain from the past, levels of loneliness and disillusionment in life come together and bond over their common dislike of Tracy – the oblivious bride in the voluminous white dress.
First off, this is a cast that really works.
There is an easy chemistry amongst them – and that in itself is a rarity in many productions.
Each actor has been cast perfectly – Leal, for one, is the ideal choice for Tricia and shows a striking range in her role – she can go from icy toughness to a genuine sense of vulnerability in seconds.
Merriman doesn’t have a role that offers a whole lot of range, but she makes the most of it with her natural luminosity.
Taylor is superb as Meredith – not the most likeable gal but that’s kind of the point – Meredith has her own story buried under layers of guardedness that hides a shocking secret.
I have to say some of the most enjoyable moments of the play come near the end when another member of the wedding party, Tripp, shows up and connects with Tricia.
Paul Sutherland, who many will recognize for his extensive work on many local stages, is an exceptional actor who can pretty much conjure up anything a script demands. It’s great to see him in a ‘lighter’ role and his chemistry with Leal is electric. Indeed – the moments between these two are fabulous – from comic to blistering to a realization that there is indeed something there.
Clearly, with this abundance of talent – it’s tough to go wrong.
There is much to enjoy, but it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea with frank talk about sex, a smattering of other mature themes and some very salty language.
To my knowledge, there were no mature theme warnings with this play.
Meanwhile, Scott is an insightful director – you can tell he’s comfortable in that role – and that sense of ease and fun that define his style have impacted his cast.
Everyone is having a good time up there – the signs of which bubble up frequently – from the beginning of the show right on through.
Ultimately, it’s not the most pleasant of plays to take in – it’s certainly not all big laughs and fun.
But as pieces of the past surface, we learn more about the women’s backgrounds and what makes each of them tick.
And in that regard it’s a rather relatable story.
After all, society doesn’t allow us all to be as authentic and honest as we would wish to be.
For these ladies – the funny, sad, troubling, crazy and even poignant events that take shape from the ‘common ground’ of loathing the blushing bride – are at the heart of the production.
CAT will be donating $1 towards the Central Alberta Women Emergency Shelter for every ticket sold for Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.
For ticket information, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.