Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron is based on the surprise hit book by Ilene Beckerman. The play begins as Gingy (representing Beckerman) describes herself as an ordinary person who was bored one day and began to sketch dresses she had owned. She discovered that during many important events in her life she vividly recalled what she’d worn. She worked up this idea and sent copies to her family and a couple of best friends. One of those friends sent it to a publisher where the largely female staff circulated it among themselves and added post-it notes of their own recollections. In 1995 the publisher gave the book a chance and—voila!—well past the age of 60 Beckerman became an successful writer.
Twelfth Night Productions’ director Jasmine Joshua has set the play as a book launch party. There are party streamers with “Congratulations Gingy” (short for Ginger, Ilene’s hair color at birth) and many photos attached to clotheslines with clothes pins on the walls. Otherwise the whole production is simplicity itself: a couple of bar tables and stools, a few bottles and glasses for drinks, a box or two of costume pieces, a clothes rack of the drawings, and a stack of the book on a stage.
The ensemble cast includes Lisa Clarke, Susan Connors, Patricia Haines-Ainsworth, Samantha Holsworth, Cassandra Leon, and Jane Taylor. Watch this show as one would enjoy a jazz sextet. There are a pair of funny ensemble pieces on “dress rules my mother had,” and “I’ve got nothing to wear.” A third hilarious scene is a group of friends going to a disco all dressed as Madonna in her various periods: Desperately Seeking Susan, Vogue, etc. Naturally they come across another group of women … dressed as Madonna!
Other scenes involve 2, 3, or 4 of the actors. These set up the monologues which are like jazz solos. The audience on opening night seemed timid at first about applauding these solo performances, but soon got into the spirit of the show.
I spent my summer reading Nora and Delia essays. They were sisters who collaborated on many hit movies such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve got Mail. Nora works into the play whole paragraphs from her essay about purses. By the time her attention turns to Kelly Bags you appreciate the irony. In the play, you watch as a dubious narrator joins a friend to shop for this famed purse in second-hand stalls in Paris. Her friend even buys one, but gets trapped by a rainstorm in a Parisian cafe because she hadn’t had a chance to waterproof her $5600 purchase yet, and water would ruin the fine leather finish.
Delia, not to be outdone, included something about crocheting. As the younger, less famous sister, Delia wrote books about crocheting to establish herself as a solo writer away from the gravitational pull of Nora.
Reviews of the original 2009 off-Broadway production noted that the all female ensemble would appear onstage dressed in black and read from script binders. This format allowed famous actors to join for a performance or two as their schedules permitted. Which was part of the charm of the show and part of the basis for its long run.
This Seattle show is far more theatrical than the original run. The actors have memorized their lines and thanks to that they can use the stage and the props with great style and liveliness. Go dressed as you are; you don’t have to wear black to enjoy this show.
Love, Loss, and What I Wore, by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. Directed by Jasmine Joshua. Twelfth Night Productions. Kenyon Hall, 7904 35th Ave. West Seattle. Runtime: 100 minutes, no intermission. Tickets $20 for adults; $18 for students & seniors. Dates: April 22, 23, 29 & 30 at 7:30 pm. April 24 & May 1 at 3:00 pm. Closes May 1.
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