The fine five-woman cast of “Love, Loss and What I Wore” at the Cambria Center for the Arts takes women on a “been there, done that” sort of journey through life and clothes. Written by witty sisters Nora and Delia Ephron and based on a book by Ilene Beckerman, the production is not a typical play, but a theater piece. It has no plot or beginning or end. It won the Drama Desk award in 2010 as a Unique Theatrical Experience.
The five women, dressed in different chic black ensembles, are seated next to music stands, but it is not a musical. Instead it’s a rotating medley of short monologues about growing up, marrying, divorcing, and family relationships, woven together with the thread of fashion. The women take turns telling their stories, and they interact in syncopation with bits of conversations and explanations. The tone is mostly light and humorous as memories go from Brownie uniforms to wedding dresses, but it touches on life’s serious moments such as death of a mother or child, illness and even a mention of rape. Divorce is not so serious for these women. If you get the wrong guy the first time, you just keep trying. (The late Nora Ephron was married three times.)
The cast, directed by Nancy Green, is made up of women almost old enough to remember the several generations that the scenario includes, from days of Capezio shoes, Birkenstock’s and bellbottoms to Madonna wannabes. Roxane Brodnick, Jan Callner, Mary-Ann Maloof, Janice Peters and Joyce Renshaw share the stories with the sort of wit and sarcasm for which Nora Ephron is known. Among her screenwriting credits are “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
The dialogue is clever and comical as the women remember things their mothers told them (“wear clean underpants in case you get in a car wreck”), or made them wear (an “outfit” with a plaid jacket and vest in the days of the hippies), or bruised their self-esteem (“you’re pretty enough for ordinary circumstances”). They recall first sexual experiences and share funny memories of their first bras, junior proms and favorite clothes and boots.
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Callner tells her wry tales of growing up in New York with an authentic-sounding accent, and some of the anecdotes are illustrated with slides of simple drawings depicting special occasion dresses projected next to the stage. Brodnick takes on a Latina accent as she tells of wearing Chicago gang shirts, and a western twang during her saga about life with a cowboy. The women lament being too thin or too fat, and the sad process of growing old (“my butt is falling”). There are time sensitive comments such as “never a good time to be fat, but especially in the days of Audrey Hepburn.” There are lots of clothes jokes, and a group number as they all groan about closets full of clothes, but “nothing to wear.” A long monologue about purses is one that only a woman could understand.
Women in the audience, especially those of a certain age, will relate to all of this, and the men may get a kick out of it —they were there, too. The piece is well done, with just the right note of satire, probably the way the playwrights would have hoped to see it performed.