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Thursday, Mar 23, 2017

Play is edgier than ‘Steel Magnolias’ – with an attitude

Anyone who has ever been part of a wedding knows the true drama begins behind closed doors.

For five bridesmaids who escape the wedding and come together in the maid of honor’s bedroom, it is just the beginning of the story of Alan Ball’s “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” The play opens Friday, June 5 at Carrollwood Players Theatre, 4333 Gunn Highway.

This is a story of female bonding, of five very different women who come together in Tennessee as bridesmaids — all of whom actually have very little regard for the bride. They all share a common acquaintance in the heartbreaker Tommy Valentine.

“Expect a show with comedy, drama and tenderness,” said Jennifer Martin, who plays the bride’s sister, Meredith. “The story is like an edgy ‘Steel Magnolias,’ with five bridesmaids navigating through personal issues with humor.”

Four of the bridesmaids have known each other since they were children, the other is the sister of the groom. Over booze and other mature indulgences, the women flit between discussions on everything from marriage and liposuction to serial killers and sexual trauma. But the conversation always returns to men — how to tame, attract and deal with them.

“Initially, what drew me to ‘Five Women’ was the dichotomy of bonding with someone one moment and in the next moment there is an adversarial relationship. It’s an honest portrait of how people interact with each other every day, whether it’s with friends or relatives,” explained director Marc S. Sanders. “This cast is superb at turning an emotion on its heel. Alan Ball’s script is very reminiscent of John Hughes’ ‘The Breakfast Club.’”

Lending to the authenticity is an amazing set and a lobby lovingly crafted to look like a wedding reception area.

“Creating a set is to give the actors a place that they can call home and take ownership of and do the absolute best they can with their blocking and their characteristics, their props and their lines. So that’s basically why I love doing set design. It’s just so much fun,” said set designer and dresser, Shirley Overton. “It’s a challenge to make something out of blank walls and a black floor.”

And, like a real reception, each guest will receive a small wedding favor donated by Wish Upon a Tree, now in its 11th year of Christmas tree charity setups.

“The show is about weddings and gifts at weddings,” said Denise Deneen, props, building manager and lobby co-designer. “We are putting the theater patrons in the frame of mind that they were seeing the behind-the-scenes of what can go on with the wedding and when they left they got a little wedding favor.”

To get further in a wedding state of mind, Carrollwood Players is hosting a faux wedding reception. For a small entry fee of $10, wedding guests can enjoy music, drink and a cheesecake tasting after its June 13 performance.

“These characters have reason to bond and support one another but they are also justified in calling each other on the carpet when the moment is necessary,” said Sanders. “All of that lends to sensational stage work and authentic performances. This is when I love live theatre the most.”

“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday night and 3 p.m. Sunday. Advance tickets are available for purchase at www.carrollwood players.org or at the box office for $20 regular ticket and $17 for the senior/student and military.

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