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Five women wearing the same dress
by Alan Ball

16 September to 2 October 2004

A wickedly irreverent look at the intricacies of friendship and the women who always fall for the bad guy.

During an ostentatious wedding reception five reluctant, identically clad bridesmaids hide out in an upstairs bedroom, each with her own reason to avoid the proceedings below.

The five women include Frances, a painfully sweet but sheltered fundamentalist; Mindy, the cheerful, wise-cracking lesbian sister of the groom; Georgeanne, whose heartbreak over her own failed marriage triggers outrageous behavior; Meredith, the bride's younger sister whose precocious rebelliousness masks a dark secret; and Trisha, a jaded beauty whose die-hard cynicism about men is called into question when she meets Tripp, a charming bad-boy usher.

The ladies alternately complain about the dresses, the bride, their lives, and their mutual involvement with a mysterious stud named Tommy Valentine, who is also at the wedding chasing after a female guest in a backless blue linen dress.

Frankie

 

 

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is a play written in 1993 by Alan Ball.

The play is a comedy set at the home of the bride in Knoxville, Tennessee during the newly married couple's overdone wedding reception.

The five bridesmaids have found refuge in the room of Meredith, the sister of the bride. The women come to realize, among other things, that they, despite their differences, have more in common with each other than any of them do with the bride.

 

Bernadatte Bycroft

Trisha

Bernadette trained at Mountview Theatre School in London and worked professionally in the British capital until 1988.
She has spent the last 10 years in local theatre including productions with Stirling Players, Therry, The Adelaide Rep, Burnside Players and Theatre Guild.
A career highlight was appearing in the Epiphany Players prodution of Murder in the Cathedral at the Adelaide Fringe.

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Mellisa Clark

Mindy

Mellisa trained at Drama School London and Mountview Theatre School.
She has performed on the London Fringe as Kay in Time and the Conways and Joan in Sexual Perversity in Chicago and in the Christmas Pantomime Mousella.
She is new to Adelaide and feels very privileged to have Five Women Wearing The Same Dress as her first production here.

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Bonnie-Fay Madigan

Meredith

Bonnie first started theatre in 1998. She has been in several musicals with the MS Society including Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Four years ago Bonnie became involved with Burnside Players through their production of Our Day Out and has since appeared in their productions of Tom Jones, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Daisy Pulls It Off.
Bonnie is involved with Speech and Drama through the AMAB and is studying a BA in Drama at Flinders University.

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Maggie O'Grady

Frances

Maggie graduated from Flinders University in 2000.
She has appeared in many productions but highlights include Theatre Guild's Private Lives, The Cherry Orchard and Equus.
Maggie also featured in Independent Theatre's War and Peace and Crescent Company'sThe Full Mongrel for the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
She also featured in Jimmy Zoole's California Suite and The Les Darcy Show. Earlier this year Maggie played Louise in Gypsy for the MS Society.

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Ben Passehl

Tripp

Trained in drama at the Centre for the Performing Arts, Ben performed Jazz, a one-main show in Fringe 2002, and has appeared in State Opera's Andrea Chenier, Il Trovatore.
Ben's recent credits also include Theatre Guild's Private Lives, Measure for Measure; Bakehouse Theatre's Streetcar Named Desire and The Club; Allied Artists' Hamlet and Independent Theatre's War And Peace.
Ben won acclaim for his portrayal of Perry in Love! Valour! Compassion! last year for Mixed Salad.

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Nicole Rutty

Georgeanne

Nicole has been involved in Adelaide Theatre since 1999.
In that time she has played a variety of comic and dramatic parts.
These include lead roles in Summer of the seventeenth doll, Travelling North and Season's Greetings for Adelaide Rep.
Her most recent shows were with Stirling Players where she played Mona in Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean followed by an acclaimed role as Hannah in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.

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Sally Putnam

Director

Sally directed Mixed Salad's award-winning and highly acclaimed production of Love! Valour! Compassion! last year.
She was stage manager for the Elder School of Music and AIT Arts production of The Marriage of Figaro in 2003.
Sally was dramaturg and stage manager for Teatro del Mundo's dance production, Gypsy Bazaar.
She has recently directed two comic operas in Adelaide for Musaic.

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Louise Dunn

Designer

Louise graduated from AIT Arts with an Advanced Diploma in Theatre Design in 2002.
Her credits include designing the costumes for Tutti Ensemble's The Singing of Angels for the 2003 Come Out Festival and creating the room design for the Adelaide Convention Centre's New Year's Eve dinner.
She worked on a performance/installation project for Urban Myth for the 2004 Adelaide Fringe, and won huge acclaim for her stylish and innovative set for Mixed Salad's award-winning production of Love! Valour! Compassion! in 2003.

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Alison Kershaw

Lighting Designer

After completing BA (Hons) Arts and Education at the University of Leeds, England, Alison returned home to Adelaide.
She has recently become involved in local arts scene, designing lighting for Teatro del Mundo on a several production including Gypsy Bazaar.
Her most recent work includes designing lighting for Musaic, Velada Flamenco Company and now Mixed Salad Productions.

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Penny Bissell

Stage Manager

Penny realised a childhood ambition to work backstage by joining SCATS (Stage Crew Technical Services) several years ago.
She has worked backstage on numerous Adelaide shows for a variety of companies including Therry and Independent Theatre.
This year she stage-managed Independent's production of Daniel Deronda.

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The screenwriter and co-producer of American Beauty, Alan Ball earned almost overnight acclaim and recognition for his screenplay for the film, which won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe, as well as numerous other honors.

Ball's success was a long time coming; much of the frustration and anger felt by American Beauty's protagonist, Lester Burnham, was inspired by the screenwriter's own dissatisfaction with his years spent working as a television writer and producer.

Born in Atlanta in 1957 and raised in the neighboring community of Marietta, Ball studied Theatre with an emphasis on acting and playwriting at Florida State University.

After graduating, he moved to New York, where he became a noted playwright. Among the plays he penned were The Amazing Adventures of Tense Guy, Your Mother's Butt, Made for a Woman, and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress; when the latter premiered in 1993 at the Manhattan Class Company, it featured Allison Janney, with whom Ball would later work on American Beauty.

After moving to Hollywood, Ball began working on the TV sitcom Grace Under Fire, and then became a writer and eventually an executive co-producer for the sitcom Cybill for three seasons. While working in television, he channeled his frustration into the script for American Beauty, which was eventually picked up by DreamWorks.

Working closely with director Sam Mendes, Ball was given a remarkable degree of control over his screenplay, and American Beauty premiered in 1999 to ecstatic reviews and a host of award nominations.

A cynical but ultimately redemptive story about a man's mid-life crisis and journey to rediscover his passion for living, it reflected Ball's own outlook, which he has described as "equal parts brutally cynical and achingly romantic."

The film earned a number of international awards, including Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (for Kevin Spacey), Best Director, and Best Picture.

When his latest ABC sitcom, Oh, Grow Up, died a quick death in the fall of 1999 just as Beauty began to take off, Ball was determined to escape the language and content constraints of network TV. Fending off many other offers, the writer-producer chose to align himself with HBO's immensely successful original programming department to release Six Feet Under in June of 2001.

Inspired in part by Tony Richardson's 1965 satire The Loved One, the hour-long series focused on a family of morticians brought together by the untimely death of their father and featured Ball's now-trademark mix of ironic situations with sardonic dialogue.

Rebecca Flint, All Movie Guide

 

Frankie

Alan Ball

 

Click on each headline to read the story

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress takes out new award >>
Our 2004 production of Alan Ball's hit comedy has won the first ever 'Curtain Call'

Our critically acclaimed show was judged the Best Show, Comedy in the awards which recognise uniqueness and quality in local theatre.

Accepting the award at the gala dinner, director Sally Putnam said Mixed Salad always aims to recognise the work of every person connected with a show.

"We work as a team to create a show with high standards and attention to detail in every aspect of the production," said Sally. "Thank you to everyone involved in 'Five Women' both on stage and behind the scenes."

Awards organiser Hayley Horton said that actors, directors, crew, technicians and ushers should all feel they are being recognised in each of the nominated shows.

"Everyone involved in this production should feel that they have contributed to this award," said Hayley.

Congratulations also to Nicole Rutty, who played Georgeanne in the show. Nicole was nominated for an honour in the Best Individual Female Performance category.

"Where an individual is nominated for an award, they have an ability to shine and remain memorable in the minds of an audience member irrespective of the quality of the production they are in," said Hayley Horton.

The inaugural gala awards dinner was a great success, marking the 20th anniversary of the Theatre Association of South Australia, and the launch of a new and improved Adelaide Theatre Guide website.

26 July 2005

Adelaide's critics present end of year awards >>

Sunday Mail critic Matt Byrne handed out his annual awards to the people and prodcutions which helped list South Australia's cultural scene.

His award for Best Local Play was given for our "Tremendous local production of a difficult and complex play. Another feather in the boa for Mixed Salad and its courageous choices."We also walked away with the Sunday Mail Horatio awards for Best Local Actress: Nicole Rutty, and Best Local Direction: Sally Putnam and Dave Simms.

The Advertiser critics haded out their annual brickbats and bouquets: The Oscarts. We were thrilled to win Show Of The Year.

Messenger Newspaper drama critics also handed out their awards to Adelaide's amateur theatre community for achievement throughout 2004. Again Nicole Rutty was honoured with a best actress award, and Five Women wearing the Same Dress was voted Best Comedy.

The Adelaide Critics Circle gave an honorable mention to Mixed Salad Productions at their annual Coopers Awards.

While we didn't walk off with the trophy we received praise for being in contention two years' running - which is a first in the history of the awards, and a great achievement as Mixed Salad has only been producing plays since 2003.

Db Magazine made mention of our production in their annual review: "Mixed Salad don't do much, but they do it well, and boy, do they put on an operning night nosh! Five Women Wearing the Same Dress was a real delight - wonderful characterisations and compelling interactions."

And in early 2005, the Theatre Association of SA Critical award for excellence mentioned us in the winning citation noting that we were in strong contention for the award two years running.

Sunday Mail, The Advertiser, Messenger, 1 January 2005

Adelaide Premiere of Alan Ball's hit play - media release >>

These feisty females show they have more in common than an unflattering frock in Mixed Salad Productions' Adelaide premiere of Five women wearing the same dress.

In this touching comedy by Alan Ball, five reluctant, identically clad bridesmaids hide out in an upstairs bedroom. And they each have their own reasons for avoiding the drama unfolding at the wedding reception below.

This wickedly irreverent look at the intricacies of friendship sees the women learn that they have much more in common than they originally thought. They complain about the dresses, the bride, their lives, and their mutual involvement with a mysterious stud named Tommy Valentine, who is also at the wedding and chasing after a female guest in a backless blue linen dress.

The five women include Frances, a painfully sweet but sheltered fundamentalist; Mindy, the cheerful, wise-cracking lesbian sister of the groom; Georgeanne, whose heartbreak over her own failed marriage triggers outrageous behaviour; Meredith, the bride's younger sister whose precocious rebelliousness masks a dark secret; and Trisha, a jaded beauty whose die-hard cynicism about men is called into question when she meets Tripp, a charming bad-boy usher.

Since the play premiered in 1993 at the Manhattan Class Company, playwright Alan Ball has earned acclaim and recognition with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe for American Beauty. In 2001 he began writing and producing the immensely successful TV hit Six Feet Under.

Mixed Salad Productions is a joint venture by local drama exponents Dave Simms and Sally Putnam. The company made an impressive debut on the local theatre scene last year, winning praise for its inaugural production of Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!

"We really want to work on another excellent ensemble piece," says Sally. "The play has some great comedy, but also some poignant, darker scenes. The characters delve into the complicated landscape of relationships between women and explore why they always fall for the bad guy."

The cast includes Bernadette Bycroft, Mellisa Clark, Bonnie-Fay Madigan, Maggie O'Grady and Nicole Rutty.

The season runs from September 16 to October 2 in the Promethean Theatre, 116 Grote Street, City. Performances are on Thursdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sundays and Wednesdays at 6.30pm, with matinees on Saturdays Sept 18 and 25 at 2.30pm. Tickets: $24 or $16.50 concession. Bookings: BASS on 131 246 or on-line at www.bass.net.au (booking fees apply).

Media Release, 26 August 2004

Click on the headline to read the review

Here comes the bridal bitchiness - Sunday Mail >>
Congratulations to Mixed Salad for finding this wonderful show.

After the success of Love! Valour! Compassion! last year, the company went looking for a female ensemble piece and has come up trumps.

Alan Ball - of American Beauty and Six Feet Under fame - has written a very funny, brutally honest play given blueplate treatment by directors Sally Putnam and Dave Simms.

On an ironically romantic, bedsheet-inspired set from the ingenious Louise Dunn, we see five very different women, wearing the very same dress, retreat to an upstairs bedroom to escape from a posh Tennessee wedding reception. Each has a different reason for avoiding the wedding's aftermath and the evening is a smorgasbord of love, regret, passion, champagne - the whole damn thing. Putnam and Simms keep the pace and paranoia coming as the five contrasting lives under five wedding-cake dresses unravel before our eyes.

First cab off the rank is the ballsy Bonnie-Fay Madigan, who delivers an eye-popping performance as the bride's younger sister, Meredith. She is like Kelly Osbourne on wacky-weeded wedding cake, carrying the weight of comparison with her so-called perfect older sister on her shoulders, as well as a terrible secret she cannot keep to herself any longer.

Maggie O'Grady gives her finest performance as a Christian bridesmaid, Frances, who must avoid the sex, drugs and shock 'n' roll erupting around her to keep her religious integrity intact. Staying straight in this bedroom is no easy feat, and O'Grady gives balance to the sexual anarchy breaking out around her, before diving in at the deep end.

Mellisa Clark adds solid laughs and issues as forthright and unwieldy lesbian Mindy. Clark handles the unsympathetic part with aplomb, avoiding making Mindy a card-carrying cut-out and building the piece's drama.

Bernadette Bycroft tackles the difficult role of self-confessed, high-class man-easter Trisha with wily world-wearied style. She delivers the man hunger without cheapening the part, and handles the unexpected arrival of Tripp, her target for the evening, with just the right amount of self-destructive honesty.

Like the rest of the cast, Ben Passehl, who plays Tripp, could do with extra drawl and twang in his accent, but he looks and acts the unexpected part well in a telling scene with Trisha.

But it is Nicole Rutty who steals everything but the bed sheets as champagne-soaked Georgeanne, a wife in freefall, hooked on garbage options in life. It is a masterful display by an actress in full control of her craft, suppressing the anger and realising the full comic potential of this wonderfully written part. Rutty has lines to die for and the audience dies laughing with her.

Ball's dialogue is razor sharp, wincingly accurate about men and women's foibles, and gives an insight into the rarefied and dangerous sexual air of the American upper class.

The show has a tremendous ensemble feel with every actor given their moment to shine, but their mutual support and respect is the production's real strength. Full credit to Rob Andrewartha for his outrageous ice-blue bridesmaid creations, which let these women pour their heart and contrasting cleavage out into the evening.

The show has many laughs but also several powerful and poignant moments - just like most wedding receptions. This is theatre to celebrate - don't miss out.

Matt Byrne, Sunday Mail, 19 September 2004

Wickedly witty - City Messenger >>

Alan Ball's wickedly witty scripts for American Beauty and Six Feet Under have pushed him to the forefront of contemporary commentators.

This play is a gem with the same dark humour gleaming brightly all over it. Five bridesmaids in bad blue dresses gather in a chintzy bedroom after a wedding and before the reception. Their Deep So'th'n accents perfectly transport us to Knoxville, Tennessee, as they drink more champagne, smoke some pot, and swap salacious stories about the groom, the bride, husbands, lovers and each other.

Bonnie-Fay Madigan as Meredith, young sister of the bride and with a definite adolescent attitude, is splendid as an emerging butterfly not sure of herself but determined to get plenty of attention. Counterpoint to her stomping tomboy is Maggie O'Grady's goody-goody Frances whose stock answer of "Ah am a Christian" to any possible suggestion of sin becomes hysterically funny, with a tragic tinge when she is on the edge of a fall.

Bernadette Bycroft weighs in with worldy wise Trisha, who's been around the traps a few times and isn't afraid to say what she wants. Mellisa Clark's overt lesbian Mindy is definitely in the "I am Woman, hear me roar" category but standout in a cast of standouts is Nicole Rutty as Georgeanne. Frustrated wife of an indifferent husband, she becomes maudlin drunk and confesses her passion for the local stud, who seems to have had his way with almost everyone in the cast. Ben Passehl is cast as token male Tripp in an unsuccessful attempt by the playwright to round off the plot.

That device is the only fault with the show which I rate as the best thing I've seen all year. We didn't stop laughing all through this most professionally staged and performed splendid piece of theatre under the direction of Sally Putnam.

Don't hang back! Rush out and buy tickets now or I promise you word of mouth will make for standing room only.

Russell Starke, City Messenger, 21 September 2004

A must-see production - Adelaide Theatre Guide >>

Five Women... examines the lives of five bridesmaids at a large American wedding.

The action is set in the bedroom of the bride's younger sister. Brought together in this unusual scenario, unsure of why they are the chosen ones, the women share their worries and their woes, and inevitably form a close bond that renews their will to survive.

Written by Alan Ball, author of American Beauty and Six Feet Under, this poignant comedy examines the strengths and weaknesses of the female sex. The play is brilliantly directed by Sally Putnam and Dave Simms to bring out the highs and lows, causing the audience to shriek with laughter one minute and be shocked into silence the next.

The first shock is the set---I hope they had a 'Spotlight' discount card! The entire room is covered with rose print material---the walls, the quilt cover, the flounce, the cushions, the lot. Team this up with a lolly-pink bedside unit, and you get a good idea of the sort of family the bride is coming from.

Maggie O'Grady's delightful portrayal of Frances, the true, innocent Christian, challenged the audience to question some of their own beliefs and values. The bride's younger, tormented, sister Meredith was beautifully brought to life by Bonnie-Fay Madigan. Trisha (Bernadette Bycroft) comes across as the stronger, worldly surviver, but when the only male in the play, Tripp, played by the gorgeous and talented Ben Passehl enters the female domain.... well, you will have to see it to find out.

Nicole Rutty was simply brilliant as the depressed Georgeanne. She gets more and more sloshed as the day progresses, and delivers some of the best lines in the play. The final bridesmaid, Mindy (Mellisa Clark), was one of the most intriguing characters---the lesbian sister of the groom, who is naturally bitter because the bride will not acknowledge her long standing partner.

All five females delivered a truly professional performance. Running until October 2nd at the Promethean Theatre on Grote Street, this is a "must see" production.

Theresa Dolman, Adelaide Theatre Guide, 21 September 2004

A fly-on-the-wall in the powder room - dB Magazine >>
"There's this company called Mixed Salad doing good stuff at reasonable prices."

I couldn't agree more with director and producer Sally Putnam, who said this on opening night while the grateful audience was tucking into the best yummies offered by any theatre company in the city after the Adelaide premiere of this very funny play.

Writer Alan Ball is a southern boy from Atlanta, Georgia, who made his way to New York for a playwriting career that included 'Five Women...,' which was first shown in 1993. The siren call of Hollywood resulted in the screenplay for 'American Beauty' for which he won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the same award from the Writers Guild of America. His current smash hit is the TV drama series, 'Six Feet Under,' which has won two Golden Globes and six Emmies.
With no curtain available in the tiny Promethean Theatre, the audience is greeted by what appears to be one of those paperhanging jobs by the Three Stooges - absolutely bloody everything is done in a textile pattern of roses (Louise Dunn - designer). OK, this is a girl's bedroom, right? And do the girls enter! We meet the five women wearing the same dress - one by one - as they seek refuge upstairs from the disappointing and sometimes hostile world below.

We know Alan Ball can get into a character's head from his terrific writing in 'American Beauty,' but I can only rely on my women friends who confirm that Ball has exquisitely captured the diverse circumstances of these gals. This Mixed Salad production really shows off the exceptionally strong cast with each actress portraying a distinctly individual and intriguing character - complete with issues and their own way of coping and sharing. Bernadette Bycroft and Mellisa Clark both trained at the Montview Theatre School at London and they play the more mature spirits. Nicole Rutty has delicious moments of drunken self-pity. Younger cast members Bonnie-Fay Madigan and Maggie O'Grady perceptively portray personalities poles apart.

The situations can be complex with all women often on stage, but each actress contributes to the story - even when the focus is on another. The non-verbal communication between them was a treat to watch. Dialogue was sweetly done in consistent and lyrical (perhaps too lyrical) southern US accents, for the action took place in Knoxville, Tennessee. The five-alike dresses designed by Rob Andrewartha might have been the sixth woman in the play.

The character development by Ball and the performances were so strong that I didn't even notice there wasn't a story until after the show.

This is a very witty play full of American one-liners and interesting, true-to-life characters authentically performed. It was like being a fly on the wall in the powder room.

David Grybowski, dB Magazine, 21 September 2004

Dressed to impress - The Advertiser >>
American playwright Alan Ball's Five Womean Wearing the Same Dress is like a breath of fresh air.It is light without being trite. It is a play about women, wrtten with perspicacity by a man - the same man who wrote American Beauty. It is a comedy and yet it trawls through the realms of broken hearts and dysfunctional families.

The five women are Tennessee bridesmaids trapped in monster taffeta frocks and frou-frou headpieces. They take refuge from the reception activities in the bedroom of the bride's rebellious young sister - and gradually establish that perhaps they have more in commen than their frocks and relationships to the newly-weds.

One could think of it as Ya Ya Sisterhood meets Sex and the City.

Mixed Salad, under the direction of Sally Putnam, has gathered an extremely able and appealing cast of strong and funny women - and one slightly lost man. If any of the women stands out, it is Nicole Rutty, who captures the southern quality to perfection, creating a compelling character who is troubled, warm-hearted and strident. Bonnie-Fay Madigan also touches the cultural nerve in ther potent portrayl of the defiant young sister, Meredith. Maggie O'Grady is gorgeous as the "I'm a Christian" fall guy, with a good accent and well-timed deadpan. Bernadette Bycroft's considerable strength as an actor lifts her across lapses in accent, while newcomer Mellisa Clark digs deep between pathos and humour to deliver Mindy, the lesbian who is perhaps the play's most complicated character.

Poor Ben Passehl. Leer and swagger as he might, he is no match for these women. Thankfully he does not suffer for long. It's a women's play and his is a minor role.

The set, on the other hand, looms large almost as a character of its own. With what seems like acres of boldy rose-patterned cotton on walls, floor and bed, Louise Dunn makes the little Promethean stage seem vast.

Five Dresses makes a colourful slice of Americana and a little charmer of a show. And, rewardingly for a fairly anti-male play, one could not help but notice that some of the loudest opening-night laughs were coming from the men in the audience.

Samela Harris, The Advertiser, 18 September 2004