Playing Dress Up

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Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s play, Love, Loss and What I Wore, tells several stories (many collected for the best-selling book of the same title by Ilene Beckerman) about womanhood framed by the outfits that marked those memories.

I watched five women from various walks of life dressed in different black outfits retell these stories perched on stools recently at the Geffen Playhouse—and with memorable panache. Some were told in tandem, others in chorus, but most as individual speeches reminiscent of The Vagina Monologues—with a more fashion-forward outlook. The play’s main character, Gingy (Bonnie Franklin), started the show by telling the audience about the clothes she uses to trace her trajectory in life, assisted by an illustration of each outfit she discussed hanging on a rack by her side. But Franklin’s wasn’t the only voice that stood out that night. Each of the five actresses in that evening’s performance (the production has a rotating cast) had a stellar presence and outstanding voice that brought life to every outfit they narrated.

The show featured “The Dressing Room,” “Brides,” “The Closet,” and “Purses,” among other shorts, and lines like “The only reason this doesn’t fit is because I’m on my period,” and “I have nothing to wear,” had the mostly-female audience laughing empathetically. But the stories weren’t just funny—many of them were moving accounts of heartbreak, rape, insecurity, and the loss of loved ones.

I entered the theater with my mother by my side, and on our way in one of the volunteer ushers told us, “You’ll sit in the audience and you’ll nod because you’ll know it’s the truth about being a woman.” She put her right hand over her chest and sighed as she spoke. I couldn’t help but think of the usher as we sat, laughing and nodding the night away. The play captured shrewd, often hilarious truths about the female experience. And it’s true: clothes tell others—and ourselves—a lot about who we are and who we want to be.

To top off the estrogen-filled evening, the Geffen hosted “Girls Night Out” a post-play event showcasing different brands of jewelry, makeup, and shoes. Though the barbecue chicken skewers were a bigger hit than the shoes, the event had a good turnout. Even Bonnie Franklin stopped by for a drink and a few hugs from old friends and fans.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore closes at the Geffen on September 26.

Photo by Michael Lamont

 

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