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There's no saying when I'll forget what I wore when my engagement went bust, but so long as my brain connects with my heart, I suspect both organs will continue to drag in my wardrobe. Need I state that those black jeans went the way of that diamond ring?Seeing Love, Loss, and What I Wore merely three months into my re-accessorized state, I worried that the Off-Broadway show at the Westside Theater might be a little too close for comfort. But Nora and Delia Ephron's collage of stories is entertaining enough to be therapeutic.The sisters drew inspiration from Ilene Beckerman's 1995 memoir of "growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s, '40s and '50s through the clothes I wore," as the author says on her website.Every four weeks it's performed by a new cast of five who sit and deliver. The lippy dames consult their scripts, adding to the informal, stripped down feel of the klatch. On the night that I saw it, Lucy DeVito, Melissa Joan Hart, Capathia Jenkins, Shirley Knight and standout Judy Gold comprised the ensemble.Karen Carpenter's direction is as unfussy as the black clothing they wear. And as you'd expect from a New York play on fashion and feeling, that ne plus ultra color gets its share of riffs. A mini-disquisition on it climaxes with the quip, "Can’t we just stop pretending that anything will ever be the new black?"
Leading us through the monologues and one-liners is Beckerman alter-ego Gingy, interpreted by a winsome, if slightly distracted Knight. She opens with the clothed life's source of all wisdom, her mother. Displaying Madelinesque drawings of the Brownie uniform and taffeta dress her mother once sewed for her, she confides that what she really coveted were ready-made items from the store. There can be no doubt that mom is the ideal launching pad for a retro-glimpse at the fabric of our evolving identity and relationships.Gingy's stage mates each play several characters in varying situations of love and loss. Some are more bitter than sweet. A particularly poignant vignette is about the lace bra that a cancer patient filled her reconstructed breasts with. Another eulogizes the boots and short skirts its owner wore until she was raped. (The boots stayed; the skirts went to Goodwill.) And a third recalls the bathrobe a new step-mother wore, which to the chagrin of her five step-daughters, was identical to their deceased mother's, only in "electric blue.""Heels or think" was the choice one of DeVito's young personas faced. Bunions be damned, she favored the former until after her divorce, when "think" got the upper hand.By far the best-tailored monologue is Nora Ephron's rant about purses. Taken from her humor anthology, I Feel Bad About My Neck, it declares war on the handbag and takes no prisoners of the offending clutter within. Jenkins vamped her way through the sheers-sharp pokes at stray lipstick and tampons, and simply brought the house down. For all the play's pinch and charm, it never fully recovers from that blow. Nora upstages herself and her sorority of creators, showing what can really be done with the material, and planting a vague qualm that Love, Lost has wispy clothes.In its stage translation, Beckerman's book is fortified with stories by a bevy of media mandarins including Rosie O'Donnell and Alex Witchel. It could have used a page from Alison Lurie's The Language of Clothes. Or something akin to Paul Fussell's insight that, "because men's shoulders constitute a secondary sexual characteristic," epaulets are a macho look. In other words, I'd have invited some sartorial scholars to crash the slumber party.But maybe that's just me. Judging by their appreciative laughter, the audience of mostly boomer females were plenty thrilled as it was. The Ephrons, whose screen adornments include Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Julie & Julia and Sleepless in Seattle (and Nora penned the Oscar-nominated When Harry Met Sally) have once again accoutered an appealing amusement with broad appeal to women and other clothes wearers.Find out who's performing the next four-week cycle, among other details, at www.lovelossonstage.comLove, Loss, and What I WoreWestside Theater407 West 43rd StreetNew York, NY(212) 239-6200
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