City Theater's cast of FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS: Front, l-r: Jeanette Wolfarth as Mindy, Hannah Perry as Francis and Joanna Clark as Meredith. Back, l-r: Sarah Thurston as Georgeanne and Karleena Stoner as Trisha

City Theater’s cast of FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS: Front, l-r: Jeanette Wolfarth as Mindy, Hannah Perry as Francis and Joanna Clark as Meredith. Back, l-r: Sarah Thurston as Georgeanne and Karleena Stoner as Trisha. Photo:

May, 2015

Spring, 1993. Tracy Marlowe and Scott McClure get married in an extravagant wedding at the bride’s family mansion in Knoxville, Tennessee, and fun is had by all. All, that is, except five women: The Bridesmaids.

Five very different women, somehow connected to the bride somewhere in time, are fatefully unified by their dislike for Tracy and their disdain for the hideous gaudy gowns she made them wear. But as the milestone reception roars on outdoors, the five women escape to the solitude of an upstairs bedroom where many threads are weaved and other milestones are celebrated and mourned.

Such is the backdrop of Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, written by Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under, American Beauty) being staged by Biddeford’s City Theater from May 15-24. Hailed as a celebration of the female spirit and billed as a girl’s night out, Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, is undoubtedly a feast of feminine artistry and a wild journey into the psyche of women (guys, pay attention, you might learn something).

The cast is fabulous.

Hannah Perry is superb as the sweet-faced, true-to-herself Francis, cousin of the bride, balancing between her well-noted Christian beliefs and her earthly goal to find a boyfriend. A solid and consistent performance.

Joanna Clark masterfully brings Meredith, Tracy’s “bad-ass” high-class younger sister, to life. She’s blunt, impulsive and chaotic with a strong disposition that, when removed, reveals a vulnerable victim underneath.

Karleena Stoner plays Trisha, Tracy’s high school friend, with equal perfection—defensive, fights for what she believes in, has a bad reputation but can be very caring, just wants to have a good time and not get hurt.

Sarah Thurston is a consummate professional actress whose portrayal of Georgeanne, another high school friend of Tracy’s, embodies total command of her character’s every physical, emotional and intellectual nuance with supreme confidence and flawless comedic timing and expression.

Jeanette Wolfarth is remarkable in her treatment of Mindy, Tracy’s new sister-in-law—high strung, caring and humorous, comfortable with her sexuality but needs to be accepted.

Notable in this production is that the main characters—Tracy and Scott and a host of other leading personalities—are viewed and analyzed from the second-floor perch but are never seen on stage. The only other member of the cast is Caleb Aaron Coulthard who convincingly plays the role of Tripp, Mindy’s cousin. His scene at the end with Trisha is riveting, classic as Bogie and Bacall.

Also not seen is another leading lady, Costume Designer Barbara Kelly, who created the famed “same dresses” for this show. The uniquely tailored gowns all look alike indeed but metaphorically—and logistically— take on lives of their own.

The set is simply beautiful—thank you to Technical Director Karl Carrigan and Scenic Painter Jessica Chaples-Graffam.

Playwright Alan Ball’s recipe for comedy clearly includes a range of not-so-subtle emotional themes that almost throw his property into the “dark comedy” category. His embrace of the seven deadly sins and other societal issues (insecurity, friendship, sexual abuse, drugs, faith), with a confrontational approach, combined with in-your-face graphic language peppered throughout the script, sabotages the comedy, uncomfortably redefining the piece at the expense of the wonderful direction and performances.

Which is not to say that FIVE WOMEN doesn’t have its guffaw moments. Au contraire! The five leading ladies—and Bravo to Director Megan Cross—brilliantly pulled out all the stops in an over-the-top interpretation filled with comedic chaos and shocking humor. But Ball’s “celebration of the female spirit” almost overdoses from ultra-stereotyped characters and their foray of rapid-fire psychological symptoms.

But overall, there are some redeeming messages: 1) What you wear on the outside has no impact on who you are on the inside, and in fact could be oppressive; 2) Finding common ground with the most unlikely people can be powerful, purging and unifying; 3) Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the need for acceptance; and 4) Self-discovery is vital for happiness.

Five Women Wearing The Same Dress runs two weekends, May 15 – 24, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM. City Theater is located at 205 Main St., downtown Biddeford. All seats are $20. For reservations, visit or call 282-0849.


–Louis Philippe


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