LALT presents serio-comedic play by Oscar-winning screenwriter

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By Jennifer Wadsack

Those that missed the William-Kate wedding  festivities at Westminster Abbey last Friday, should look no further because “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” debuts at the Los Alamos Little Theatre this week. While it may not be the royal wedding itself, Alan Ball’s serio-comedic play features five bridesmaids sporting identical gowns in absolute-apricot, complete with stand-alone skirts, dyed-peach prom pumps and hats even the flying nun would envy.

Set in an affluent suburb of Knoxville, Tenn., the nuptials have all the trappings of a lavish Southern wedding. Aristotelian unities of time and space are well maintained however, as the audience spends all its time in the perfectly appointed bedroom of a turn-of-the-century mansion, where the titular bridesmaids refuge to dodge the wedding reception below.

Alan Ball is probably best known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 1999 Best Picture “American Beauty” or as the creator/director/writer/producer of the Emmy-winning television series “Six Feet Under” and current HBO series “True Blood.”  Like the dialogue that won Ball his storied awards, the play’s searing repartee finds meaning amidst misery and magic in the mundane.

Here, Ball uses his native Atlanta, Ga., to spin contemporary versions of the Southern belle in the form of five bridesmaids: younger sister-of-the-bride Meredith (Orli Shlachter), whose rebellious behaviors seem to compensate for underlying complexities brought on by sibling rivalry, mother-daughter dialectics and emotional traumas; cousin-of-the-bride Frances (Kimberly Petersen), whose fundamentalist Christian self-proclamations barely cover her longings for acceptance. 

Then there’s high-school party girl and friend of the bride Trisha (Kaki Kelly), whose days of indulgence and fly-by-night “romance” have jaded her just enough, perhaps, to be taken unaware by usher-boy Tripp Davenport (Warren Houghteling),  who is a less dangerous-version of offstage heartthrob bad-boy Tommy Valentine. 

There’s also limelight-shadowed college sidekick-of-the-bride Georgeanne (Kate Ramsey), whose own crumbling marriage is juxtaposed with the fairytale start to Cosmopolitan-”do”-girl Tracy, the bride who remains offstage but larger-than-life in her very absence; and lesbian sister-of-the-groom Mindy (Alison Mercer-Smith), whose success in real estate pales to her discomfort in heels and social prescription.        

Roxanne Tapia directs the show. Her path to the stage was far from simple. Tapia initially discovered the play as she was browsing online for scripts to read at the Little Theatre’s monthly play readings. The play’s cast featured five roles for women.  

Tapia ordered the script and back in 2005, a play reading ensued.

After many years as a computer software developer at Los Alamos National Laboratory and elsewhere, Tapia decided to go back to school to study theater. In 2010, while earning a bachelor’s in theater and music at the College of Santa Fe, Tapia directed “Five Women.”  

In a year of transition, Tapia’s production was one of only a few student productions to be featured as part of the college’s official subscription-ticket season.

After graduating from the College of Santa Fe, Tapia joined the board of the Los Alamos Little Theatre at a time when her previous experience came in handy. The May 2011 LALT show was supposed to be the musical, “A Class Act.” But that show fell through when not enough men showed up for February auditions. While meeting with the board to decide how to fill the hole that had suddenly opened in LALT’s play season, Tapia was reflecting on how much work it would take for any director to whip a show together and have it production-ready by May. 

Then it dawned on her.  She had already done the homework for a production that could well meet the community theater’s needs.  

Her previous production of “Five Women” fit the bill perfectly. The cast featured roles for five females and only one male.

This composition would address the lack of available male auditionees and reward the traditionally female-predominant pool. Also, Tapia had already done the homework necessary to mount a successful production in limited time.

So a show was born.  With the help of producers Todd Graves and Jim Sicilian, Tapia was able to assemble a production team worthy of the time constraints. Beyond that, the set has its own challenges in its four-walled, crown molding adorned, built-in window seat requirements of affluence and elegance.  But set-designer Larry Cox rose to the occasion. 

Costuming afforded no rest either. Santa Fe Opera seamstress Doris Leitch designed five matching peach bridesmaid gowns from the “ground up” on a community-theater budget, with hats and heels, to boot.

Produced by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., “Five Women has at 7:30 p.m. “pay-as-you-will” preview performance today at the Los Alamos Little Theatre,1670 Nectar St.  The shows will run a 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as  May 13, 14, 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m. May 15. Tickets are on sale at C.B. Fox and available at the door: $12/general admission and $10/students and seniors.

 Please note that the show is for mature audiences only.  Adult language and adult themes and activity abound.  An “R” rating definitely applies.