BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield resident Ruth Kliwinski, a newcomer to the Nutley Little Theatre, will appear at that venue in the upcoming production of “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” The comedy, about a group of discontented bridesmaids during a Knoxville, Tenn. wedding reception, is by Alan Ball, the screenwriter for “American Beauty” and creator of “Six Feet Under.”
Kliminski, who has not performed for 20 years, was born in Northern Ireland. She emigrated to this country at 18 and attended Montclair State University majoring in English literature.
“I did children’s theater in Greenwich Village, off-off-off Broadway,” she said recently at a local coffee shop.
Kliminski does not speak with a brogue.
“I had a thick accent,” she said. “Acting made me lose it. I had to. I couldn’t audition with such a thick accent.”
She has written and acted in full-length murder mysteries produced at a dinner theater in Morris County. Diners were asked to guess the murderer’s identity.
“We cast people that looked like movie stars,” she said. “We had a Sean Penn, a Tom Selleck — you’d be surprised how many people look like famous people.”
She stopped acting to raise a family. A son and daughter went through the Bloomfield school system.
With the children raised, theater experience and the itch, Kliwinski, a human resource director at an electronics company, decided to audition. She made a list of possibilities.
At the top was a Nyack theater. She tried out for a part and was not cast.
“It was weird auditioning again,” she said.
Number two was the Nutley Little Theatre. Here she was cast.
“I accomplished my goal with the second on the list,” she said.
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” is character-driven, according to Kliwinski, who plays Mindy, the sister of the groom. There is a cast of six. Five of the characters are bridesmaids. There is one male usher.
“The bride is Tracy,” Kliwinski said. “No one likes her. The dress all the bridesmaids wear isn’t lovely either.”
Kliwinski’s character is a lesbian. She is afraid that Tracy will not make her brother happy.
“Tracy didn’t allow Mindy to bring her significant other,” Kliwinski said. “Mindy is a bridesmaid because Tracy always gets what she wants. On Broadway, the part of Mindy was played by Allison Janney. She won an Oscar. Those are big shoes to fill.”
Janney is an Oscar and multiple Emmy winner. She won the 2017 best supporting actress Oscar for “I, Toyna” and four Emmys for her portrayal on “West Wing.”
To develop Mindy’s character, Kliwinski read the script numerous times.
“The writing is good,” she said. “Mindy is a Realtor. She runs her mouth and says kooky things. But she’s different from what I’m like. She has a visceral reaction to the dark parts of the play.”
Kliwinski’s reaction to discovering the Little Theatre in Nutley was one of surprise.
“I thought, darn, it’s been here the whole time and I didn’t know it,” she said.
The dimensions of the Little Theatre surprised her, too. She had auditioned on the set of the previous production and the stage seemed small. But that was not the case when the set was struck and “Five Women …” went into production.
“It’s a big stage,” she said. “The house is small, but the stage is large.”
The theater seats about 40.
Kliwinski, who became a member of the theater, said she will also audition for its next production, “Dinner with Friends.”
“The theater is close, the people are really nice and it has a long history,” she said of the Nutley theater. “To help it continue is important.”
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” will be performed from April 13 to April 28. Evening performances are April 13, 14, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m. Matinees are April 15, 22 and 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online or by calling SmartTix at 212-868-4444.
The Nutley Little Theatre is at 47 Erie Place, Nutley. It is located off Brookfield Avenue, one block east of Franklin Avenue. For directions, see www.nutleylittletheatre.com.