The only thing wrong with this play is the title, Love, Loss and What I Wore. The rest is fabulous.
The title comes from the book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman. That book inspired the Ephron sisters to invite women to talk about their sartorial side, and the stories were massaged into this excellent evening, so I suppose the title can’t be all bad, even though it makes the show sound ever so much less than it is.
This is not a story about clothing or accessories. It is a layered and complex recital of women in all stages of life. Loosely narrated by Gingy (the captivating Tine Daly), the text flows between the five actors like an appetizer making the rounds at a night out with the ladies table. These women share the stories, the stage and the responsibility for giving us an evening that has lasting effect.
Gingy has a set of simple renderings, starting with her Brownie uniform and ending with her latest black dress with sleeves, and an accessory recommended by her granddaughter. She started these drawings one day when she had a backache and let them lead her into a tour of her own life. She wore her earliest leggings only when she went outside in the winter because they were ugly, held up by suspenders, and her mother promised she would get polio if she went without them. We are covering a whole bunch of time here. Gingy’s mother made all her clothing, so the one thing she wanted was a store bought dress. After her mother fied, Gingy’s father bought her two navy blue dresses for her 13th birthday. A little while after that her grandmother came to take Gingy and her sister to live with her. Gingy never saw her father again.
See what I mean? Not just a show about clothes.
Where it is about clothes goes like this: women notice details. We notice the time of day, the weather, what we were eating, drinking and yes, wearing. Mothers and daughters duel through teenage years, and a mother choosing an “outfit” for a girl is right up there with a bullet to the head. There’s a lot of mother-daughter material here. According to the Ephron sisters, all clothing choices lead to your mother. You are either dressing like her or breaking away from her, agreeing with her “isms” ie: Never wear white shoes with a black dress: never wear more than three colors; never wear ruffles. Those happen to be MY mother’s advice.
As we track Gingy though dating, marriage, divorce and assorted other events the other four women take us through everything from My First Bra to My First Mastectomy to My First Gay Wedding to a gay man, My First Gay Wedding to a Gay Woman, Happy Divorces, Bad Luck Dresses.
As if to underscore this show’s lasting effect on me, I overheard a conversation on Metro North the other day. A girl of about 15 was talking to her mother. Do you even know what I’m wearing? The blue dress. No the long one. The one that comes down to my knees. That one.” And sure enough, she was. Wherever she was going, she knew what she was wearing and why. A story there, for certain.
The ONLY other thing wrong with this show is that the actors are not clearly identified. I saw this with Tyne Daly and Rosie O’Donnell – who most peole know. Also included were Samantha Bee, Kate Finneran and Natasha Lyonne. With no photos in the Playbill - how do we know who is who? Even their clothes weren’t telling.
What the popular press said...
ELISABETH VINCENTELLI for NEW YORK POST says,"The show is akin to a warm estrogen bath, complete with an ambient soundtrack of empathetic ooohs, aaahs and awwws from the audience"
JOHN SIMON for BLOOMBERG says, "A killer class in deadpan delivery"
DAVID SHEWARD for BACK STAGE says, "Clothing and touchy-feely emotions are the order of the day in this collage play about women's relationships with apparel and the memories it evokes. "
JENNIFER FARRAR for ASSOCIATED PRESS says, "By turns funny, poignant, and occasionally rueful"
MARILYN STASIO for VARIETY says, "A bittersweet meditation on the joys and tribulations of women's lives, reflected through the prism of their clothes."