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Bridezillas: Lighten up. This Stray Dog play says there’s no such thing as a perfect wedding day

A Stray Dog Theatre play opening Thursday immerses us into a June tradition: the pressure cooker of a perfect wedding.

One of the characters isn’t a person  but a teal-blue bridesmaid’s dress with a wide white satin sash. Thus the name: “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”The wedding party is attired in matching perfection. And the bedroom in a Knoxville, Tenn. mansion where the play is set is also “just so,” with its ornate wall decorations, lace curtains and crown molding.

But soon, audiences discover that while the set and the wedding party look made-to-order, things are much messier underneath, according to Stray Dog founder and director Gary Bell.

“You see the cracks that start to take place in the personalities, and in the different characters that start to reveal the truths behind who they really are — almost like taking like a wedding cake and smashing it,” Bell said.

Sarcasm and Southern belles

The script by national playwright and producer Alan Ball doesn't feature the bride at all, only her bridesmaids and one usher. It opens with her bridesmaids gathering in the bedroom of the bride’s sister Meredith, just before the reception. One of them, Trisha, freshens her makeup and declares that the bride “carried off” her own dress.

Sarajane Alverson as Trisha checks her makeup while Lindsay Gingrich as Meredith smokes a joint.
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio
Sarajane Alverson as Trisha checks her makeup during this rehearsal as Lindsay Gingrich as Meredith smokes a joint.

But the tough-girl character of Meredith replies with her signature sarcasm.

“She didn’t wear it, it wore her,” Meredith says. “If she had any sense, she’d put it on a mannequin and roll it around the reception and leave herself free to mingle.”

Lindsay Gingrich, who plays Meredith, explained that Meredith’s very jealous of her older sibling.

“Tracy’s perfect; she’s beautiful. She’s got the best job; she just got married to someone who’s rich, who adores her,” Gingrich said.

The play is set in the early 1990s, so there’s no constant cell-phone chatter or social-media posting. But even without  the confessional nature of modern-day communication, audiences eventually find out why Meredith can be so cruel. No spoilers here, let’s just say she’s put up a wall to help her deal with an earlier trauma.

“She wants to get at these women if they try and discover who she is, because they get too close and she’s not OK with it,” Gingrich said.

The character of Trisha her own issues including a preoccupation with her looks.  Sarajane Alverson, who plays the role, said there’s a lot more to Trisha than meets the eye. She’s a rebel doesn’t really believe in the façade of the bride’s dream day.

“She might look like a Southern belle but that doesn’t mean she always acts like it,” Alverson said.  

Alverson said she sees a lot of herself in Trisha.

“Maybe not all the slutty parts, but definitely the sarcasm, the humor and the not putting up with anybody’s crap,” Alverson said. “I think there’s a fair amount of me in that.”

Lindsay Gingrich as Meredith wears a leather jacket and a big attitude with her bridesmaid's dress.
Credit Justin Been | Stray Dog Theatre
Lindsay Gingrich as Meredith wears a leather jacket and a big attitude with her bridesmaid's dress.

In the end, Alverson and Gingrich agreed that the human foibles revealed by each character will resonate with audiences. The play definitely rings a bell for Gingrich in her own life. She actually has five bridesmaids dresses hanging in her own closet.

“I’ve been in five weddings,” she said.

Most of the dresses aren’t as homely as the one she wears in the play.

“I have three or four that I’ll wear again,” Gingrich said. “Of course, those brides actually liked me.”

"Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" runs through June 25 at Stray Dog's Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.

Bonus: Actors Sarajane Alverson and Lindsay Gingrich reveal how they fine-tuned their Southern accents to play Trisha and Meredith in "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress."

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.