The bridesmaids in "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress" don't know the bride terribly well, but each has a reason for donning the tasteless dress and walking down the aisle with her. And not all those reasons are pretty.


It can be a curious journey from the page to the stage for some plays. Consider "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," directed by Terry Erbe, presented by Arizona Onstage Productions.

"Six or eight months ago, several of us were just sitting around after a performance of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf,' " recalled Erbe, who also directed that production.

"Amy (Erbe, Terry's wife) was there. Carrie (Hill) was there, too. Carrie and I have been wanting to do something together for quite a while, especially since I've never directed her and she wanted me to."

Talk among the actors turned to the somewhat political comedy "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," which Carrie had seen before. With five roles for women, they would only need to cast three more.

"I'd never seen it," said Erbe. "But I did know it would be a nice change from 'Virginia Woolf.' "

Later on, the entrepreneurial Hill (who has her own theater company, Sacred Chicken Productions) was talking with Kevin Johnson, founding artistic director of Arizona Onstage Productions.

"He had access to a performance space but needed a production. We had the idea for a production but needed a performance space," Erbe said.

Voilà! Erbe's cast and Arizona Onstage combined forces to present "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress."

"It's a fun, funny show," said the director. He's had Hill, wife Amy and the rest of the cast in rehearsal for weeks. Those actors are Debbie Runge, Lori Hunt and Carley Preston as the other bridesmaids, along with Robert Anthony Peters playing another member of the wedding.

"We all get to work together and have a good time," Erbe said, smiling. He's also extended the family connection.

"Amy's mom is a seamstress. She has designed the most hideous dress for these bridesmaids," he laughed. "The color is fuchsia, with pouffy sleeves, big bows, hats and shoes to match."

Having to wear an ugly dress is a running joke in everyone's conversation. Quickly we learn all five of those bridesmaids in the same dress are hiding in an upstairs bedroom during the reception following a society wedding in Knoxville.

Turns out none of the women were ever best friends with the bride. But all had their reasons for agreeing to share in the wedding ceremony. Some of those reasons are a bit ugly.

"It does have a feminist message at times, but Alan Ball the playwright doesn't beat us over the head with it," Erbe said. "Basically, this is a bright, breezy comedy full of Southern humor."

The production is set in the early 1980s to match some of the script's references," says Erbe. But as far as the humor and the issues discussed, he doesn't think the play is dated.

"In the beginning, these women don't know each other very well. But as they talk they begin to bond, and their attitudes toward the bride also begin to change.

"The more they drink, the more they reveal of themselves," Erbe said, noting the play is recommended for mature audiences.


• What: Arizona Onstage Productions' "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress."

• Playwright: Alan Ball.

• Director: Terry Erbe.

• Where: Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

• When: Previews 7:30 p.m. next Thursday; opens 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 27. There is no Jan. 25 performance, and there will be a 2:30 p.m. show on Jan. 26.

• Tickets: Preview, $15; other shows, $25, with discounts available.

• Reservations/information: 882-6574 or 1-800-838-3006,

• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.

• Cast: Amy Erbe, Carrie Hill, Lori Hunt, Robert Anthony Peters, Carley Preston and Debbie Runge.

"It does have a feminist message at times, but Alan Ball the playwright doesn't beat us over the head with it."

Terry Erbe, director, "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress"

Chuck Graham has written about Tucson arts for more than 36 years. Read more of his articles at "Let the Show Begin,"