The cast of Asolo Rep's production of Nora Ephron's Love, Loss and What I Wore. Photo credit: MYUNIONHOUSE.
As the cast of the Asolo Rep’s current production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore worked in rehearsals, they couldn’t have known that during this run of the show, one of its creators, Nora Ephron, would die, at the age of 71. Sad news for all who have enjoyed Ephron’s writing over the years; the performance I saw Wednesday night was dedicated to her memory.
And Ephron’s comic, often rueful touch is evident throughout Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which she co-wrote with her sister, Delia, although the inspiration for the piece came from a book by Ilene Beckerman. Beckerman’s recall of the memories that different clothing items brought her at different times of her life is reflected in the parts of the play called “Gingy’s Story” (as related by actress Loretta Swit), but her flashbacks are interwoven with many other stories brought to life by Swit’s fellow actresses, Rosalyn Coleman, Roni Geva, Donna McKechnie and Mary Testa.
As with Eve Ensler’s popular The Vagina Monologues, the format of Love, Loss, etc. is quite simple, with the cast sitting on chairs, all dressed in black, and reading/acting their pieces, often interacting with one another during the telling. A crew member with her back to us flips through large pages of drawings of different dresses Beckerman’s character wore as a child, young woman, mother and beyond; each has a poignant and/or funny story attached.
Poignant/funny is, in fact, the default mode for this show, and for 94 minutes (no intermission) it works beautifully, especially for an audience made up mostly of women of a certain age, who will have no trouble at all relating topics like “What My Mother Said,” “The Bra,” “The Prom Dress,” “Fat/Thin” and “Brides.” Who hasn’t struggled in a clothing store’s dressing room to find something that fits, stared blankly into her closet only to end up shrieking “I’ve nothing to wear,” or (in one of the show’s funniest bits), faced the truth about the debris overflowing from her purse?
That last piece is performed with lots of verve and perfect comic timing by Mary Testa, who has appeared in the off-Broadway production of the show. She gets a lot of the funniest lines here and delivers them with zest, frequently eliciting roars from the audience.
But each actress gets a chance to shine here, as when Geva tells the story of wearing a paper dress one night she will never forget, or McKechnie recounts a bout with breast cancer, or Coleman remembers the bad relationship a pair of boots led her into. And Swit’s Beckerman nicely wraps up the whole package with lines about her young granddaughter trying on her clothes and make-up—a full-circle emotional moment bound to bring a tear to the eye.
Love, Loss and What I Wore continues through July 15; for tickets call 351-8000 or go to asolorep.org.