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Playhouse takes a risk with edgy comedy-drama

Mindy, played by Tara Hizon, and Trisha, played by Tina Mellum, convince Meredith, played by Keziah Benson, center, to tell the truth about an event in her childhood. - Rebecca Olson
Mindy, played by Tara Hizon, and Trisha, played by Tina Mellum, convince Meredith, played by Keziah Benson, center, to tell the truth about an event in her childhood.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson

This is like no production the Whidbey Playhouse has done before. Cutting edge, lively and witty, “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” offers a peek into the lives of five very different women.

All wearing the same carrot-colored bridesmaid dresses replete with bows and frills and hats so flowery even their grandmothers would scoff at them, five completely different bridesmaids discover they may have a thing or two in common as they escape the wedding reception.

The play was written by Alan Ball, who won an Oscar for his work in the movie  “American Beauty.” He also created the TV shows “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood.”

Meredith, played by Keziah Benson, resents her sister’s wedding, complete with her $6 million dress and new husband who follows her around like a puppy. Eager for something — anything — to go wrong at the wedding reception but exhausted by the “bland leading the bland,” she hides in her bedroom and is joined by the four other bridesmaids as they escape the reception for their own reasons.

From the moment Georgeanne, played by Shealyn Christie, bursts through the bedroom door in tears, it’s constant drama and humor, all drawled in Southern accents.

Sweet, Southern Christian girl Frances, played by Katherine Arguelles, is out of place — but no less amusing — when surrounded by Trisha, played by Tina Mellum, who has enjoyed her share of men, and Georgeanne, whose marriage is in shambles, leaving her to pursue the legendary Tommy Valentine, who has expressed interest in every one of the bridesmaids, including Mindy, played by Tara Hizon, the groom’s lesbian, wise-cracking sister.

As the women talk about everything from lost loves to how marriage fits into the modern world to throwing up, the witticisms and one-liners bring a lightheartedness to the women’s deeper problems, even as darker secrets from their pasts surface.

“It’s a fun show. It pushes the envelope a lot for here,” said Suzanne Maris, director. The show is for mature audiences ages 16 and older.

Maris suggested this play because she didn’t want the Playhouse to continue doing the same types of plays. Last year, Maris directed “Talking With,” a series of edgy monologues. She has been involved in the Playhouse since age 16 and stage managed her first show at 17.

While “Five Women” isn’t for everybody, Maris said, “I think it’s going to bring new people in…. Any time we can bring new people in who get excited about live theater is a good thing.”

The cast has been rehearsing since early June.

“I think he (Alan Ball) writes good people and so I set out to find people who were in some ways very similar to the characters,” Maris said, adding that as good as Ball wrote the characters, how that comes across on stage is dependent on the people who play them.

“They are all kind of a little piece of them and it’s exciting to watch them all build them,” Maris said.

The ease with which Benson slipped into the rebellious character of Meredith belied the fact that “she’s the exact opposite of me,” Benson said.

“It’s fun to have an excuse to cuss,” she laughed. What Benson can relate to with Meredith is having a story in her past.

Playing Meredith was “very interesting, very cool. I like that there’s more to her than meets the eye, like what’s in her past,” Benson said.

This is her third show onstage at the Playhouse, but she’s been in love with acting since age 6. Acting is how she met her husband, who is in the Navy, which brought her to Oak Harbor.

“I really think people will love it,” Benson said of the play, adding that people should be open-minded while watching it.

For Christie, playing Georgeanne is liberating.

“She’s not as shy as I am in real life so it’s one place I can be confident,” Christie said. She has been involved in theater since high school.

Hizon also enjoys playing a character who she can relate to and also learn from.

“I like that she doesn’t take herself real seriously. I wish I was more like that,” Hizon said with a laugh. Hizon has been active at the Playhouse for 20 years and played a number of roles onstage, as well as produced a show. She is a member of the Oak Harbor City Council.

Melum has been involved at the Playhouse since 1979.

“We’re kinda mother hens but then we’re just crazy and wild, too,” Melum said of herself and Trisha. “We care for other people but then we’re wild and crazy gals.”

Arguelles moved from Texas to Oak Harbor two years ago. She was involved in theater throughout high school and has done one other play at the Playhouse.

Despite conversations about various men, only one man appears onstage in the play: Tripp, played by Allen Peter, who has served in the Navy for more than 10 years.

Both easy-going guys, Peter said it wasn’t hard to relate to his character. This play was his first time onstage.

“You gotta always try something once,” Peter said.

Hizon said she’s proud of Maris for taking the risk to put on this play.

“I hope people turn out and try something new. Come and enjoy live theater for an evening,” Maris said.

 

 

Enjoy the comedy-drama

  • “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” runs through Aug. 12.
  • Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • Tickets cost $14.
  • For tickets and information contact 679-2237 or office@whidbeyplayhouse.com.
  • The Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor.
  • Visit www.whidbey playhouse.com.

 

 

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