CONWAY — They may be wearing identical strapless dresses made of fuchsia taffeta, but each of the five women on stage in the next presentation by the Lantern Theatre and the Conway Community Arts Association are as different as daylight and dark. Or are they?
Members of the audience will be able to draw their own conclusions by attending the local production of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at the Lantern Theatre, 1021 Van Ronkle St. in downtown Conway.
Tickets are $12 each. To make reservations, email ConwayLanternTheatre@gmail.com or visit www.conwayarts.org.
Liz Parker directs the show, which she describes as “a wickedly funny, irreverent look at serious subjects.” Wendy Shirar is the stage manager.
Because it contains some adult content, the play is recommended for ages 18 and older.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress follows five bridesmaids as they hide out in an upstairs bedroom while the reception takes place downstairs. Each of them is very different, yet the audience may find them bonding as women when they discuss the issues of their generation.
“I saw this play about 25 years ago at a theater festival and loved it,” Parker said. “I always wanted to do it. I decided this was the year to do it.
“It speaks to a younger generation than I am,” Parker said. “These women are in their late 20s, early 30s. To me, it’s about new beginnings. They are bridesmaids at a wedding. They all have issues; some have made bad choices. They are holed up in the bedroom upstairs, hiding from their issues as the reception goes on downstairs.
“They kind of know each other, but as they sit around and talk, they bond. And do they talk. They talk about sex, drugs, men, religion … no holds barred.”
Parker said she hopes those in the audience who are “older” may see themselves in the play “and those who are younger maybe will make better decisions.
“So I think it is a play about new beginnings for all,” Parker said. “I think this play is important for just that reason.”
The cast of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress includes three new faces to the community-theater scene — Jordyn Daniels, Claire Wilkinson and Schley (pronounced Slay) Carter, who is the only man in the play. Familiar faces include Heather Hooten, Ashley Carnahan and Elizabeth Williams.
Following is a brief look at the cast members:
• Daniels plays the role of Meredith, sister of the bride. Originally from Bentonville, she is a sophomore theater major at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. She has appeared in several UCA Theatre productions.
“I read this play in high school,” Daniels said. “I play Meredith, who has a lot of hidden emotions. She’s very angry. She’s trying to deal with it in the best way she knows how.
“By talking with the others, she learns how to deal with her anger. It’s a journey for her.”
• Wilkinson plays the role of Georgeanne.
“I am the only married bridesmaid,” Wilkinson said of her character. “I have a son. I am in a very bad marriage and am very unhappy. I have made some not-so-savory decisions.
“I am the manic person in the play, the loose cannon of all the women.”
Wilkinson is working on a master’s degree in music at UCA, where she is also a graduate assistant in the music department. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. She has family in Little Rock, and that is what brought her to UCA.
• Carter plays Tripp, who is an usher and a cousin to Mindy.
“I’m a player,” Carter said with a grin. “I flirt with all of the women, but I am especially interested in Trisha. But she’s not interested in me. She’s a female version of me.”
Carter, of Little Rock, is a December 2013 graduate of UCA with a degree in marketing. He graduated from Jessieville High School in 2008. During middle school, he was a member of the Youth Theatre Central Arkansas at UCA and appeared in The Falcon.
He works with Excel Models and Talent in Little Rock.
• Hooten last appeared with Conway Community Arts a few years ago in Dearly Departed. She also directed the Youth Theatre production of The Falcon. She moved away from Conway but has returned.
Hooten plays the character of Trisha, who has made some poor choices in life, Hooten said.
“She is not ashamed of it,” Hooten said. “It is what it is. She has become an empowered woman.”
Hooten said she is pursuing a master’s degree in education at UCA.
“I have been teaching high school drama on a freelance basis in Memphis,” she said. “I decided it was time to go back to school so I can become a certified teacher.”
Hooten graduated from Conway High School in 2002 and from UCA in 2006 with a degree in theater.
• Carnahan last appeared at the Lantern Theatre in Secrets of a Soccer Mom.
She plays the part of Mindy in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.
“Of all the ladies, I am the most confident,” she said of her character. “I’m here to make sure nothing ruins my little brother’s wedding.
“Mindy is very neurotic and a little clumsy. She also makes a lot of wisecracks and jokes.”
Carnahan works in the finance department at Bale Honda in Little Rock. She lives in Conway and graduated from UCA in 2001 with a degree in theater.
• Williams last appeared with the local acting troupe in its September 2013 production of Amateurs.
“I play Frances, the youngest of the bridesmaids,” she said. “I am a cousin to the bride and her sister, Meredith.
“Frances is very, very religious. She is also a little bit dorky and socially inept.
“All of us bridesmaids are upstairs hiding from the reception for our own reasons. This play is a lot of fun. It’s a comedy, but a dark one.”
Williams is a graduate of Hendrix College with a degree in theater arts. She is a production associate at Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.