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Live sitcom at Harlequin Productions

Five women, five dresses (one Alan Ball sitcom)

Three out of five: Laura Hanson, Korja Giles and Lorrie Fargo / Photo courtesy of Harlequin Productions

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Let's get a few questions settled right out of the gate. First, while there are, in fact, five women (and, eventually, one man) in the play Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, they're not actually wearing the same dress. They're wearing five different-sized copies of the same blue dress. Perhaps someday we'll see a production of this script in which five women do wear the same dress, but Harlequin's is not that production. I'd go see that production. So would you. Imagine five contortionists, each bemoaning her sex life and noshing on canapés while simultaneously squeezing herself into the same size-8 dress. It'd be great. I'm just saying.

Second, it's a very nice dress style, designed by Linda Whitney. If director Aaron Lamb would let these women take off their loopy hats, they'd have little of any sartorial substance to complain about.

Third, it's only fair to Harlequin for me to note that I've already seen two productions of this script. Repeat viewings of sitcom jokes seldom do them any favors, whether it's an exceptional sitcom like Cheers, Seinfeld, or Parks and Rec, or a fair sitcom like Five Women. Make no mistake: Five Women is every inch a live situation comedy. Its jokes veer from issue to expected social issue. Much of its acting is in expository sitcom style. The first time I saw this script performed was in the Bible Belt, so its impatience with naïve Christianity landed a whole different way, but post-wedding irritation is all but universal. I wonder if that's part of the reason cake and champagne are provided.

The show's language, topics, and brief implied nudity make it too hot for network TV - and, I'm guessing, a few audience members, who left at intermission. That's to be expected, as its playwright, Alan Ball, is known for Oscar winner American Beauty and two HBO dramas, Six Feet Under and True Blood. In all those scripts, the female characters' dialogue possesses a certain oratory cadence that sounds less like women conversing and more like Alan Ball delivering a statement. That said, Laura Hanson (as Trisha) elevates the material she was given. All six actors are well-cast as individuals, but a stage full of brunettes makes it tough to differentiate characters at first. This helps Maggie Lofquist make an early impression as Meredith, the bride's blonde, disgruntled sister.

The show accomplishes its primary function: I laughed at jokes I'd heard before. I wish the company had seen fit to cast more Olympia actors - after all, using local, female talent is half the reason to choose this particular script - but it's Harlequin's call, not mine. After the show, I asked the woman next to me, a 30-something theater fan, what she thought of it. "It was ... fine," she decided, and I guess that about covers it.

FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 14, Harlequin Productions, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $20-$34.50, 360.786.0151

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