Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Movie Theater Review: Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Love, Loss, and What I Wore
An intimate collection of stories by Nora & Delia Ephron

Love, Loss, and What I Wore is presented as a theatrical reading: Five chairs in a line on the stage, with lecterns in front of them. Oh, geez, I thought, I'm seeing this? I'm not even seeing a play? I needn't have worried. The show is presented with a rotating cast of 28, and every cast, as far as I can see, is stellar. We saw Carol Kane, Jayne Houdyshell, Fran Drescher, Didi Conn, and Natasha Lyonne.

Stories, anecdotes, and characters are presented through the context of clothing and accessories. We open with Gingy (Carol Kane), who decided during (an illness? insomnia?) to sketch outfits she remembered. As she showed each outfit, she reminisced. From Brownie uniforms to bridal dresses, Gingy told her life through clothing. None of the other characters stay on-stage past individual tales, so that all five are voicing many women, but every woman's memories are intertwined with what she wore.

We left feeling like we had shared in a full range of woman's lives. Houdyshell even presented a character who has just never related to or remembered clothing. Only one item of clothing ever stuck in her mind, and yet that item moved us to tears.

I don't do the "sisterhood" thing very well. I don't find myself on board with a lot of what passes for sharing women's experience or women's empowerment. As often as not, I feel marginalized by it. But here, honestly, I felt so connected to other women, to being a woman, to sharing womanhood through the vehicle of this text and these performers.

Mostly we laughed. We laughed a lot, and loudly, and sometimes we spontaneously applauded, but yes, there were tears. These were stories about loving black, and hating your purse, and wrangling with your mother over what you're going to wear, and buying a bra in anticipation of breast reconstruction, and maternity dresses, and prom dresses, and these are women who love and hate their mothers, their bodies, their men, and their lives. Unsurprisingly, these women skew heavily towards Jewish New Yorkers like the Ephrons, but characters portrayed also include a lesbian and a Latina, and in the joys and laughter are also stories of rape, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, and really bad therapy.

Much more laughter than tears, though. I have a bad laugh. I have a series of bad laughs: Snorts and barks and squeaks and guffaws that burst forth from me at inappropriate moments, and the theater audience got to share every one of them. And I shared theirs.

Fran Drescher kind of stole the show. Everyone was great, but the revelations were Drescher and Lyonne, both of whom had more raw performance power than I could ever have anticipated. Drescher owned. Drescher cracked the other women up so they momentarily lost their places. What a pleasure!

So, on I go to Amazon to buy the original book upon which this show is based, and if I find a text of the play I'll buy that too, because I want to experience these stories over and over. While wearing black.

(Cross-posted in blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a structured leopard jacket)