Play offers look at women’s relationships with each other

Perry Bergson
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It didn’t take long for the script of Five Women Wearing The Same Dress to resonate with the people of Odyssey productions.

“I thought it was a great look at women and how even a diverse group of women can still become friends and bond,” director Trent Gillespie says. “What intrigued me most, as the father of two girls, I’m going to have deal with the emotional range that the women in the show do so it was a challenge to myself to direct five very strong women and one token male.”

Five Women Wearing The Same Dress is a 1993 play written by Allan Ball, who TV fans may recognize as the creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood. He also wrote the award-winning 1999 movie American Beauty.

Five Women Wearing The Same Dress is a comedy set in Knoxville, Tenn., in which five bridesmaids end up visiting in a bedroom to escape the reception.

Roxanne Dicke, a longtime actor and director for the company, had the script brought to her attention and she passed it around.

Gillespie received the script in October and the decision was quickly made to proceed.

Casting was completed in November, with the first read-through in late November and rehearsals beginning in December.

The play features Desire Lang as Frances, Lisa Kruger as Georgeanne, Lisa Lavalle as Trisha, Randi Miller as Meredith, Slavita Baranga as Mindy and Mark Neudorf as Tripp.

Miller, a veteran of the stage with Odyssey, quickly connected with the laughs when she read the play.

“It was funny,” Miller says. “There were some good characters with some good interactions and a wide variety of characters, which I thought was interesting. That kind of drew me to the play.”

A half dozen people are directly helping with the production while another 15 to 30 people are lending a hand in other ways.

Barry Mihilewicz serves as technical director and Layla Shuparski is stage manager.

Baranga is a newcomer to the stage and Odyssey Productions.

“I’ve always been fascinated by theatre and what it does so I thought it was time to try it out,” Baranga says.

She’s glad she did.

“I didn’t expect us to form actual bonds of friendship,” she says of her cast. “I really enjoyed it. No matter how hard my day was and no matter how much I dreaded doing something after work, when I came here I would just feel energized with the energy that everybody brought to the set.”

The troupe’s 22nd season has included Sadie Flynn Comes To Big Oak (in December), The 39 Steps (in February) and finishes in May with He Said, She Said.

It hasn’t been the easiest year for the production company. A move to Wesley United Church was precipitated by Ecole Valois’s decision not to host them this year.

While the logistics have meant moving from a spacious gym to a smaller auditorium, Gillespie says the group has accepted the new arrangement.

“We’re going to enjoy this season and we’re going to have fun with it,” he says. “Change happens to all groups.”

The smaller production is ideally suited to their new space but Gillespie says the play offers a lot.

The truth Gillespie finds in the play involves women’s interactions with each other.

“The thing that really spoke to me with it issue-wise is how the relationships of women are formed by themselves and their interactions with men,” he says. “All of them have had an interaction with one male who we never get to see and it’s affected their lives in a certain way. But it also shows that no matter what they’ve gone through, you can still bond, no matter how different they are and even how much they disagree.

“No matter what they’ve gone through, they can always find comfort in dealing with each other.”

The play, which runs about two hours and 15 minutes, including the intermission, will be staged from Thursday to Sunday at Wesley United Church.

The evening shows, from Thursday to Saturday, begin at 8 p.m., with the dinner at 7. Doors open at 6:30.

For the Sunday matinee, the doors open at 1 p.m. for a 2 p.m. show.

Tickets are $40 for the dinner theatre or $17 for show only at the door.

Miller says it’s well worth taking a chance on.

“It’s funny. It’s a good night out,” Miller says. “There’s not always a lot to do here in P.A. so give it a try.”

Organizations: Wesley United Church

Geographic location: Knoxville, Tenn., Big Oak, P.A.

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