City Gate Productions presents “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in Maspeth

 The show’s titular women will be played by Regina Fischedick, Virginia Harmon, Margaret Leisenheimer, Ashley Gage and Liv Campbell. Photo by Joe Sinnott.

By Stephanie Meditz | [email protected]

City Gate Productions will celebrate Women’s History Month with six performances of Alan Ball’s iconic play,
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”

The heartwarming comedy will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from March 24 to April 2 at the Moose
Lodge Theater in Maspeth.

The play follows five bridesmaids who are united by their womanhood, wedding garb, complicated relationships
with the bride and desire to escape the festivities.

In addition to irreverent comedy, this character-driven play tells a story of hope, human connection and women
lifting each other up.

“The audience can expect a lot of peeling back of the layers of what it means to be a woman in society,” director
Amanda Montoni said.

“I think the play itself has themes of healing and friendship and is a really beautiful story of women coming together and supporting one another,” Margaret Leisenheimer, who plays Frances, said.

Frances is a devout Christian who initially uses her religion to push others away.

“I think her story throughout the play is finding ways to connect with people on a really human level,” Leisenheimer
said. “Frances really does have a huge character growth throughout this play.”

To get into character, she reconnected with her Catholic roots and composed journal entries as Frances. Although this is her first play with City Gate Productions, Leisenheimer grew up in Maspeth and regularly attended
shows at the Moose Lodge Theater.

She is a Queens community theater veteran — she began acting with St. Mary’s Drama Guild in Woodside at age

“This is kind of my introduction back to plays in Queens as of recently, since graduating from college,” she said.
“It’s really cool to be doing a show in my hometown.”

Leisenheimer was a drama major at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in
Manhattan. She then earned her B.A. in Theater and Performance from Binghamton University.

The cast of “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” has been rehearsing for their run since the end of January. Since the play is driven by character development, the actors have worked tirelessly to capture the true essence of
their roles.

“It’s been wonderful, they’re all rock stars. It’s really great to work with a cast of people that is so supportive,”
Leisenheimer said. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a really cool space to be a part of, because I always feel like I
can play around and really explore this character with my cast members.”

“I’m blown away by the cast. They have a connection that is very rare to find, especially in local theater,” Montoni
said. “They work so hard. In every rehearsal, they peel back another layer of their characters and they explore their
characters a little bit more. It’s just been a beautiful progression of character development.”

It was precisely this character development and storytelling that prompted her to become a director in 2018.
Montoni feels especially connected to “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” in particular.

“Reading the play as a young adult first in college, I felt seen in a lot of ways. And then coming back and reading
[Alan Ball’s] words as an adult, I’m like, ‘Wow, he hit the nail on the head,’” she said. “Now that I’ve had some life
experience, I feel like there’s someone who has held my hand through the process without knowing it.”

Not only was the play published the year she was born, but the titular dress for this production is based on the one
worn by her mother’s maid of honor.

Producer Thom Harmon worked closely with costume designer Amy Ellis, who made the dresses by hand.

“We knew that the dresses really needed to be special. They’re in the title of the show, and the show takes place and was written in the early ‘90s,” he said.

Although this is not City Gate Productions’ first play since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast and crew are thrilled
to have live theater back in full swing.

Leisenheimer participated in Zoom workshops during the shutdown, but she said there is nothing like the in-person
interaction that theater promotes.

“The feeling of doing a play in front of an audience, it’s incomparable,” she said. “[Acting onstage] is this really
beautiful community, and it allows us to tell stories of what people might be going through at this point in time.”

As a director, Montoni feels like a part of herself has been restored since live theater’s return.

“I live and breathe theater and creativity, so it’s almost like I feel complete again,” she said. “I feel overjoyed and
just excited to bring theater back to the community.”

Queens-based artist Sandra Vucicevic painted five original abstract portraits of the show’s five titular women. She asked each actress for a few words to describe their character, and she used them to depict the characters’ inner worlds using acrylic paint on canvas.

“It’s not like a real portrait where you could see the face, it’s just my impression of what is going on inside of these
characters,” she said. “I use color to express feelings…different personalities would have different colors.”

Each portrait is specific to the character it represents, but they will all be in the same frame to represent that they are all women who wear the same dress.

Vucicevic’s work will be displayed in the lobby at the Moose Lodge Theater for all six performances. Harmon hopes to collaborate with Queens-based artists for future shows as well, both to support local artists and add
another layer of meaning to each production.

“I’ve been doing all the PR and marketing for the show, which has been a lot of fun. The show really lends itself to a
lot of creative angles,” he said.

“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” will allow audience members to come together and enjoy a comedy, but
also contemplate the play’s deeper meaning.

“It’s an opportunity for people to escape their everyday lives and just get to have two hours…to sit there in
community with one another and experience this thing together,” Leisenheimer said. “I think that’s something that’s
really beautiful, and something that’s hard to come by, especially in a city like New York where everyone’s kind of
doing their own thing and running from one place to another. It’s sort of like this huge deep breath in and exhale,
where everybody gets to experience together.”

Tickets are available for $25/$20 for seniors and students with ID at City Gate Productions.

“It’ll give them a couple hours to actually ponder life, but in an enjoyable way, in a hilarious way. They will be
swept away by the comedy, and faith and hope will be restored if audience members are feeling a little less of that
nowadays,” Montoni said.

Playwright breaks a world record

Bobby Lang, the local playwright, director, and producer behind Nu Imperial Image Productions, recently made history in Queens with his original play, “Allure.”

“Allure” is an off-Broadway play that debuted last Friday at Hunters Point Community Middle School. It is a one-woman show that features 81 characters, surpassing the current Guinness World Record of 65 characters.

Daria Shevchenko, an actress and model from Odesa, Ukraine, is the show’s leading woman, who encapsulates the story of the main character, Brianna.

The audience follows Brianna through different day-to-day interactions, where she encounters a variety of obstacles and difficult circumstances.

“It tells a story of a woman who goes through really challenging moments in life, being supported by friends, family, and all the people that are around her every day. Somehow, these people play a more meaningful role in such a dark time,” Shevchenko said. “This story shows how

Brianna is being accommodated by all the guide people around her, and how sometimes, one word of support can change your day, and even your life.”

Lang, who is Brooklyn-born and Queens-raised, said he was motivated to write this play in order to showcase various themes that are important to his life and artistry.

“I wanted to accomplish something, and I really like to raise the bar sometimes. During a time of women’s empowerment, ‘Allure’ shows the audience the strength of a female along with her story,” Lang said.

He added that the 81 characters was a very deliberate decision, paying tribute to the late Kobe Bryant — who is well respected for scoring 81 points against the Raptors in 2006.

Although Shevchenko earnestly accepted the role for “Allure,” she said that the script was like nothing she had ever seen before as an actress.

While challenging, she said that the overall experience has been quite rewarding.

“I wasn’t sure it would be possible to do,” she said. “But then, as I read it through, I realized that there are so many characters around us every day as we walk through New York City. So why can’t I just bring all those characters to life in the play?”

Being Ukrainian and feeling the devastating effects of the war in her home country, Shevchenko said that the character of Brianna closely resonated with her, which helped her become more connected to the role.

“The war in Ukraine happened while I was already committed to the role, and I realized that I, Daria Shevchenko, am Brianna today because I am going through terrible situations, terrible pain, and loss of relationships,” she said.

“It is a very painful time in my life, and I’m actually so inspired by the kindness of people surrounding me,” she continued, “they kept me going and pushed me to pursue my acting and this performance. I knew that if I fell, they would catch me, so no matter how painful it is, having my friends and family was something I cannot express enough gratitude for.”

Lang said that he hopes to put on a local tour of “Allure,” where it will run in various locations across the city.

He plans to invite the Guinness Book of World Records to an upcoming performance to commemorate the 81-character record breaker.

“I just want audiences to be entertained. There is a message behind ‘Allure,’ which is the strength and empowerment of women, and how a person can be beautiful both inside and outside,” Lang said. “You may be going through tough times, but if you have a support system, you can get through it. But most of all, I want people just to have the very experience of a one-woman play, because it is extremely difficult to do.”

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