Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman
Clothing may not make the (wo)man, but it helps
How vividly I recall primping for a date as a teenager, and suffering my mother’s comments on, and rejection of, outfit after outfit. This memory flooded back – along with many others – while watching the vivid mother/daughter/clothing struggle unfold during Love, Loss and What I wore.
Five actors — Nora Dunn, Felicia Fields, Rona Geva, Katie O’Brien and Barbara Robertson — garbed in black, sit perched on stools. Scripts are before them and they react to each other’s readings. The stage resembles the set of Vagina Monologues, but this is deceptive. This is not Vagina Monologues times five, rather it is far more innocent and far less insightful and revolutionary. This journey revisits the transition from girlhood to maturity with stops for such moments as fitting the first bra, getting ready for the prom, wedding dress panic and the universal struggle to accessorize.
What is neat about the play is the variety — tall and short women, thin and fat women, white and black — each with her own plusses and minuses, yet all sharing recognized moments and concerns. Kudos to a fine cast where the actors swiftly and professionally interchange their shifting roles. To add variety and interest, one artistic character accompanies her monologues with drawings enlarged and depicted on a back screen – adding a neat, whimsical cartoon touch.
The women pay homage to their idol – Madonna – and revere such icons as their Gang Sweaters, punctuating their recollections with the plaintive cries like “I have nothing to wear!” Memories permeate nearly everything in their closets.
While most material from the play, written by Nora and Delia Ephron, is based on the book of the same title by Ilene Beckerman, one of the best vignettes comes from another source: Nora Ephron’s comic essay, “I Hate my Purse,” in her book “I feel Bad About My Neck.”
At one point, desperate to abandon purses altogether, she solves the problem, by purchasing an overcoat with large pockets. This, she notes, “Turned her coat into a purse!” After many tribulations, she offers her solution to the purse problem. It is worth the price of admission to learn just what this turns out to be.
The humor throughout is quiet and provokes smiles with each flash of recognition. Not all of the pieces are humorous, however, some are quite poignant as relationships are plumbed. The title is quite apt: “Love and Loss” come first, and “What I Wore” – like the taste of the madeleine cookie on Proust’s lips — serves as the stimulus to memory.
Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut, 312-977-1710. Tickets are $68-$78. Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm. Run time one hour and thirty minutes with no intermission, through December 4. $1 from each ticket sale is being donated to Dress for Success, an international not for profit organization which provides professional clothing for disadvantaged women seeking careers.