By Ruth Ross
Many women recall seminal events in their lives by the clothes they were wearing at the time. For me, it's a cabbage-rose print, harem-skirted Sweet 16 dress, a periwinkle blue number I wore on an important date, and the dresses I wore to both my weddings and those of my daughters. That relationship between women and clothes forms the basis for the Women's Theater Company's stylish production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore, the five actor ensemble piece that opened last night at the Parsippany Playhouse in Lake Hiawatha where it runs through November 15. (Above from left: Deb Cooperman, Lynn Langone, Bridget Burke Weiss, Kristine Stringer, Meredith Johnson and Angela della Ventura)
Written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron and based on a 1994 book by Ilene Beckerman, Love, Loss, and What I Wore opened Off-Broadway in 2009 and won the 2010 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, as well as the 2010 Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite Off-Broadway Play. Organized as a series of monologues and using a rotating cast of five actresses, the play addresses women's relationships and attire and the interaction of the two, with her wardrobe serving as a time capsule of a woman's life.
The Ephrons have woven together a collection of stories adapted from the book and supplement with recollections of friends, including Rosie O'Donnell. One of the monologues that became a highlight of the original production was based on Nora Ephron's 2006 best-seller I Feel Bad About My Neck.
As Gingy, a stand-in for Beckerman and the play's narrator, Angela della Ventura (right) immediately sets the play's tone, with cogent, often droll, ruminations on various dresses she presents with a series of drawings (smoothly changed by Annette Coviello as the Cast Stage Manager). Each dress tells a story as della Ventura comments on the fabric, the dress's provenance and its importance in Gingy's life. By chiming in from time to time about her marriages, her best friend Dora and the acquisition of a Brownie uniform, della Ventura holds the narrative together despite the various voices and tales being spun.
The quartet of actresses who play different characters provides superb support. Meredith Johnson does a star turn as she expounds on her versions of Madonna's changing style through the years. Bridget Burke Weiss's (left) recitation of Rosie O'Donnell's loss of her mother and her father's subsequent remarriage conveys pathos and poignancy, as does her commentary about her physical size and its effect on clothes selection (what woman hasn't asked, "Does this make me look fat?"). Deb Cooperman (below, left) nails the sulky teen whose mother buys her an "outfit" when everyone else at Scarsdale High School is wearing hippie attire; she's equally perfect describing the importance of her cowboy boots to a subsequent relationship. Christine Stringer's meditation on her gang sweater and its attraction to the gang leader is droll. And Lynn Langone is hilarious reminiscing about the striped thigh-high stockings her mother brought back from Paris ("They're so chic!") tempered with the reaction she got when she wore them to school.
Wedding attire anxiety, a post-mastectomy tattoo and the foibles of a spandex bra (actually any bra) that gives the wearer a monoboob are hilariously on the money. Women in the audience will recognize themselves in any number of stories. Perhaps one of the funniest involves an ode to black as part (and parcel) of a wardrobe.
From prom dress angst to wedding dress blues to a choice of high heels over flats, Love, Loss, and What I Wore will tickle your funny bone and warm your heart. It is charming, witty and real. And the cast director Barbara Krajkowski has assembled is perfect for this vehicle.
However, the production runs but one more weekend after this, so I suggest you grab your BFF and head on up to Lake Hiawatha to catch Love, Loss, and What I Wore before it leaves the closet. Oh, and you can take your boyfriend or husband too. Perhaps he will come to an understanding of just what clothes mean to the woman he loves.
Love, Loss, and What I Wore will be performed at the Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, through November 15. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.316.3033 or visit www.womenstheatre.org online.