HOUSTON CHRONICLE REVIEW of LOVE, LOSS, and WHAT I WORE
Every so often comes an idea so simple yet potent, so obviously "a natural," you wonder: "Why didn't somebody think of this ages ago?"
Welcome to "Love, Loss and What I Wore," warmly acted by a terrific cast in its Houston premiere at Theater LaB.
The premise? Women talk about their clothes, particularly what key articles of apparel mean to them and how they mark the major events and transitions of their lives. It's got humor, it's got pathos, it's got well-nigh universal relatability. How could it miss?
"Love, Loss and What I Wore" began as a book by Ilene Beckerman, essentially an autobiography in clothing-cued vignettes - carrying her from girlhood, through college, marriages and divorces, parenthood and the loss of a child, to senior status.
Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron adapted it into a hit off-Broadway show, keeping key vignettes from the book, adding others collected from friends and a few from their own lives.
The play centers on one actress, Gingy, which is Beckerman's nickname, relating the ups and downs of her life and wardrobe, pretty much chronologically.
Four other women each take multiple roles, augmenting Beckerman's story with their own vignettes.
One woman speaks of the two completely different gowns she wore to her junior and senior proms and how they represent the split self-image (nerd or hottie?) that has persisted through her life: " I've never really known for sure which of those two people I am - the girl who almost doesn't get asked to the prom at all, or the girl who gets to go with the really cute guy."
One explains her dilemma with high heels; she looks great in them, but they are so uncomfortable that she can't think. What to choose, appearance or intellect?
Another addresses the importance of empowering attire while undergoing treatment for breast cancer - and, later, of choosing a tattoo to adorn her re-constructed breast.
One cleverly shaped vignette alternates between two brides, each detailing her quest for the ideal wedding dress, building to an unexpected conclusion.
Occasionally, all five women join in a rapid-fire roundelay of one-liners on a particular topic - say, the pitfalls of department-store fitting rooms, the dire pronouncements made encountering the contents of one's own closet, the helpful things mothers say to daughters ("Is that what you're wearing?")
Most women who attend no doubt will anticipate the pull of this material. It's the men who may find themselves surprised at how hilarious some of the stories are and how deeply moving others turn out to be.
Director Ron Jones has given the LaB's production the friendliness, intimacy and spontaneity ideal for this show. One never doubts the sisterly camaraderie of the five seasoned players or their genuine affection for the material. Every line or anecdote feels like a confidence shared between friends.
Mary Hooper rings absolutely true with her wry, worldly, slightly rueful but always forward-looking take on Gingy.
Marcy Bannor once again proves herself a comic actress par excellence. With her skilled delivery, priceless expressions and body language, she builds one monologue after another into a hysterical show stopper.
Eileen Morris exudes warmth, humor and candor with every line, and she expertly delivers Nora Ephron's brilliant diatribe about her lifelong struggle with her purse, the script's pièce de résistance.
Rozanne Damone Curtis, taking on some of the saucier roles, acts with gutsy verve and veracity, and is just as affecting in more poignant turns.
Lydia Meadows combines intelligence with youthful energy and exuberance.
In just about any respect one might consider, "Love, Loss and What I Wore" is a perfect fit.