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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Theater: Five Women Wearing the Same Dress and A Park In Our House
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This article shared 10255 times since Wed Nov 14, 2007
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Five Women Wearing the Same Dress

Playwright: Alan Ball

At: Hubris Productions at Center on Halsted Hoover-Leppen Theatre

Phone: 773-661-0938; $15-$20

Through Dec. 8


Weddings make people cry. They also push some people to flash their claws, too.

That's what's so delightful about Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, a play penned by Alan Ball before he won an Academy Award for American Beauty and created the hit HBO series Six Feet Under.

The play's premise is simple. Throw together a mixed and mostly bitter party of five bridesmaids ( in hideous lime sherbet-colored dresses, no less ) and let them steal away from the reception to repeatedly dish the shallow bride and guests ( particularly the lothario Tommy Valentine ) . Set in 1996 Knoxville, Tenn., the Southern drawls help to heighten emotions so laughs and tears flow freely.

Though not specifically a 'gay play,' Five Women… is a smart choice by Hubris Productions for its second show at Center on Halsted. Ball's play is like a chick flick based upon chick lit, so it appeals to both straight and LGBT fans of the genre. The issues and flaws Ball examines around ceremonies and the institution of marriage are also insightful.

Under the sturdy direction of Andy Sinclair, Hubris Productions delivers a well-performed and frequently moving show, even if the stop-and-start pacing between comedy and tragedy jars a tad. ( The play's structure is also at fault. ) Also, some actors on opening didn't convincingly get under the skins of their characters.

Christina Gorman's meek smiling didn't get across why Frances, the young holier-than-thou Christian bridesmaid, continues to hang around the other women's repeated profanity, drunkenness and drug use. Only when Gorman defends Frances' religion does the character snap into life.

Andrea Morales also has some tough going as the bride's younger sister, Meredith. Morales is technically doing what's she's supposed to as the embittered sister with a shocking secret, but everything doesn't flow naturally just yet.

Much more successful are Lisa Butterfield as Tricia ( the pretty one with a whorish reputation ) and Patricia Savieo as Georgeanne ( the bride's tagalong 'homely friend' ) . Both bring an honest anguish and resiliency to women who are frustrated with how their lives have turned out—be it in a bad marriage or a string of controlling relationships.

As the groom's lesbian sister, Mindy, Mary Hollis Inboden plays up the comedy of overeating and clumsiness. She's also skillfully uses a sunny disposition to overcome and diffuse the homophobia she experiences before and during the wedding.

As the lone stag in the cast, Charles Riffenburg IV makes quite an appealing Tripp Davenport, the guy pursuing Tricia. Perhaps it was the drawl, but Riffenburg made Tripp more than an attractive sparring partner for Tricia.

So if you want a good gossip and gab fest, spend time with Hubris Productions' Five Women… They may have flaws, but that only makes them more endearing.

A Park In Our House

Playwright: Nilo Cruz

At: Victory Gardens Theater in conjunction with Teatro Vista at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln

Phone: 773-871-3000; $20-$45

Runs through: Dec. 9


During a hot and sultry equitorial summer, a stranger intrudes upon a scene of domestic discontent: a husband and wife have grown apart in their affections and their teenage niece devours 19th-century Russian novels, while her little brother teeters on the brink of puberty. They undergo great spiritual changes in response to the presence of this visitor. And when he departs, unaware of his role in precipitating these events, everyone is wiser for the encounter.

Though A Park In Our House bears thematic resemblance to the later Anna In The Tropics, it's still too early to declare Nilo Cruz the 'Tennessee Williams of Cuba'. This earlier play makes more of its political dimension—the boy has been rendered mute by the unnamed past trauma taking his parents, cousin Fifo is a former dissident photo-artist sentenced to work in the cane fields and housewife Ofelina offers lodging in their home for participants in the International Exchange program because of the extra rations permitted such volunteers. Gradually, we acclimate to the hardships of Communist rule in 1970—the disaffection of citizens fleeing the bureaucratic corruption of the Mother Country on endless government-sponsored scientific missions, and its callous mistreatment of a far-away New World colony seen only as an economical source of a crop formerly produced by slave labor.

Cruz' 1996 play contains enough material for several more ( a not uncommon phenomenon in young playwrights ) , making for an uneven overall tone, although the production encompasses several exquisite moments. A residence housing two hormone-riddled children guarantees a measure of erotic subtext—indeed, the preternaturally passive guest has barely unpacked his suitcase before the romantic Pilar sets out to seduce him. And a scene between Ofelina and her young nephew, where the butchering of a black-market pig carcass evolves into a birds-and-bees lesson, is as touching as it is poetic.

Under the direction of Dennis Zacek, a sturdy cast of Teatro Vista regulars deliver uniformly elegant performances belying the occasional clumsiness of their text. But though designers Samuel Ball and Patrick Chan succeed in conveying the mystical atmosphere associated with tropical torpor in their visualization of light-and-shadow on open-slat walls, playgoers seated in the side sections of the Victory Gardens mainstage may find these scenic effects obstructing their view of important stage business.

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