February 3, 2010

Ladies Night at "Love , Loss, and What I Wore"

You could count the number of men at the performance I attended of Love, Loss, and What I Wore.  So I did.  There were 23.  The other 241 seats at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs were filled with women of all ages, sizes and seemingly just about every ethnicity. Love, Loss, a charming rumination on the relationship between women and the clothes they wear, was written by the sisters Nora and Delia Ephron.  So I asked my sister Joanne, an inveterate clothes horse, to see it with me.  We’ve been seeing plays together since before we could legally drink and I can’t remember seeing her have a better time in the theater.

The Ephron sisters adapted the play from a small illustrated memoir in which the ad woman Ilene Beckerman recalled significant clothes in her life. The Ephrons enhanced her tale with stories they solicited from other women they knew. The sisters travel in pretty posh circles (they're the daughters of the screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron who wrote the movie "Desk Set” for Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and, of course, Nora has written and/or directed “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Julie & Julia”) so a lot of the tales hail from Manhattan’s Upper East Side or similarly ritzy zip codes. Luckily, good humor leaps over geographic and economic borders.

The show borrows a page from the Vagina Monologues, which played at the same theater, and it features a rotating cast composed of five women who sit on stools with scripts in hand but still manage to give full-out performances. Tyne Daly and Rosie O’Donnell were in the opening night cast and drew the best notices but our gals— Michele Lee,
Tracee Ellis Ross, Debra Monk,  Katie Finneran, and Casey Wilson—were thoroughly entertaining  And they looked to be having as much fun onstage as we were in the audience.  In fact, Lee was having such a good time that she kept cracking herself up.  Which just added to the general merriment.

The stories the women tell include selections from Beckerman’s book, one about a purse borrowed from Nora Ephron’s most recent collection of essays, another that O’Donnell wrote about her mother's favorite bathrobe specifically for the production and the solicited anecdotes organized around subjects like “The Prom Dress” and “The Bra.”  Most were amusing, a few were touching and all were totally relatable. You could hear women in the audience murmuring in recognition throughout the entire 85 minutes of the show.  “Oh, oh, yeah,”  the woman in front of me kept saying.  Joanne and I nodded and poked one another in the ribs more than a few times too.  

Like, I suspect, many of the audience members, we made a girls night out of seeing
Love, Loss, and What I Wore.  Before the show, we had dinner around the corner at the West Bank Cafe, where we saw Marisa Tomei, looking lovely and sipping a big martini which she never finished.  We, on the other hand, gobbled up our scallops and salmon and shared a yummy rice pudding.  Which probably explains why she’s about a size 2 and we are not. 

And, I also suspect, like most people who saw the show, we spent the ride home reminiscing about articles of clothing that had special meaning in our lives.  Right now I’m thinking about the halter top, mini skirt and strappy platform shoes I wore to a party the summer I turned 22.  The description probably sounds to you like hooker gear but it was fashionable stuff that year and because I was at what was to be my tiniest size ever, I felt sexy even though I nearly toppled off the shoes. My college wardrobe had tended towards overalls and clogs and so my date beamed when he saw me. I would eventually lose that love.  But not the pleasure that came from what I wore that day.

Evoking memories like that one, Love, Loss and What I Wore is as cozy as old bathrobe.  And just to keep it all from being too self-indulgent, a portion of each ticket goes to the charity Dress for Success, that provides business outfits for low-income women seeking better jobs.

1 comment:

Esther said...

I'm the polar opposite of a clothes horse but I loved this too. I saw it with an earlier cast that included Rhea Perlman and her daughter Lucy DeVito and Kristin Chenoweth and they did a great job. It's a very funny and poignant evening of theater. A lot of the stories really resonated with me, especially the Brownie uniform (had one just like it!) and the purse. While it probably would appeal more to women, and most of my audience was female, I happened to sit next to a guy who was in his late 20s or early 30s. I think anyone who loves great storytelling would enjoy it.