When Virginia Woolf imagined a room of one's own, it most definitely was not a claustrophobic bedroom filled with five disgruntled bridesmaids. In the Richmond Triangle Players' production of "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," playwright and screenwriter Alan Ball (of "American Beauty" and "Six Feet Under") explores female identity in the mid-'90s through the sarcastic and biting insights of Southern bridesmaids. Think "Sex and the City" with a tart twist of "Steel Magnolias."
On the intimate stage at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre, a bedroom overlooking a wedding reception is ground zero for the trials and tribulations of female life. Here a group of friends float in and out to gossip, drink, retouch makeup and confront personal doubts and expectations. Being able to contain this action on a small stage is quite a feat, and director Noreen Barnes safely delivers her cast. The costumes cringe-worthy pink ruffled dresses and wide-brimmed hats are all too real.
Chock-full of sarcastic one-liners and standout performances by the hilarious Jennifer Jones Hundley as the unhappily married Georgeanne and Amanda Durst as Mindy, the charm-school-graduate lesbian, the tempo is generally quick and entertaining. When Georgeanne confesses an ongoing crush on a wedding attendee, she sums up her romantic expectations for the day with: "Remember page 67 of 'The Godfather'?" Cranky sister-of-the-bride Meredith (Chandra O. Hopkins) is in a post-college funk and rants against everything and everybody, while the demure virgin Frances (Monica Dionysiou) drips with Christian goodness. And the acerbic and sexually charged Trisha (Stephanie Dray) adds coy commentary like a less repressed version of Tennessee Williams' snarling belle Maggie the Cat.
Opinions on marriage, AIDS, sexual preference and religion heighten the emotional stakes, but unfortunately do not offer much enlightenment on the characters or the plot. The message gets jumbled and the humorous and sardonic tone is lost a heated debate on secular humanism and a disturbing rape confession seem jarringly out of place. The result is an uneven emotional roller coaster of humorous insights and uncomfortable confessions like a slumber party that has gone on too long. S
The Richmond Triangle Players present "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. Through May 5. Tickets are $16-$20. Call 346-8113 or visit www.rtriangle.org.