REVIEW BY CARY GINELL
After last night’s preview performance of Love, Loss, & What I Wore at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, actress Nancy Dussault was asked whether this was a show meant for women only. She shaded her eyes, looked out at the audience, and cracked, “I was looking to see how many men were out there.” Indeed, the play, which was adapted by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron from the book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman, stars five women and is about women, but the humor in the show is definitely universal, and all the men in the audience appeared to be having as good a time as the ladies.
Love, Loss & What I Wore examines foibles relating to ladies’ attire and how they memorably reflect our society. As a man, I can only remember what I wore on my wedding day, but as for my first job interview, first date, or other occasion, forget about it. From a man’s point of view, the show is eye-opening as to how clothing serves as a time capsule for women, whose life memories are sparked by the slightest detail, color, or style of what they were wearing at the time. In assembling the various stories used in her book, Beckerman emailed over one hundred women for stories about favorite outfits and their relationship to memorable events in their lives.
The show is similar to a stage reading of a musical, in which the five performers sit on stools with their scripts in front of them on music stands. Each week, a different cast takes over. In ensuing performances, such luminaries as Amanda McBroom, JoBeth Williams, and Michael Learned will be part of the cast, but for opening week, the quintet included Dussault (Too Close for Comfort, The New Dick Van Dyke Show), television’s Conchata Ferrell (“Two-and-a-Half Men”), comedienne Sandra Tsing Loh (NPR commentator and author of Mother of Fire), Alyson Lindsay (most recently in Rubicon’s Noises Off and Little Miss Scrooge), and Lauren Patten (Rubicon’s Our Town, among others).
The play is a string of stream-of-consciousness monologues and one-liners dealing with clothing. Dussault plays Gingy, the only named character in the play, who describes favorite outfits she wore since she was a child, illustrated by colorful drawings that are displayed on coat hangers situated on stage. Throughout the show, Dussault recites “chapter titles,” which are then expounded upon by the other four performers. Topics include items from top to bottom, from hats to shoes, with the performers then launching into anecdotes about very real people that many in the audience can identify with. In one sequence, Ferrell poignantly tells of an electric blue bathrobe worn by her late mother (a story which Ferrell revealed originated with Rosie O’Donnell), but her funniest bit was a veritable stand-up routine on women’s purses (“a big dark hole”), and how they define the personality of their owners.
Loh is extraordinarily funny, bringing forth a closet-full (if you’ll pardon the pun) of character voices and accents to punctuate her segments, including one of the longest, loudest shrieks you will ever hear in the theater. The younger members of the cast, Lindsay and Patten, were similarly animated in their roles as well, delivering monologues about a favorite shirt, a wedding dress, a prom dress, and even the different functionality of bras. In one particularly funny sequence, the women characterize Madonna’s career in stages according to her fashion sensibilities at the time (The “Blonde Ambition” period, the “Express Yourself” years, etc.)
Interspersed among the stories were strings of one-liners that every woman has either heard or said themselves, relating to such topics as dressing rooms (“Does this make me look fat?”) and closets (“Is THAT what you’re wearing?”).
The memories are sweet, funny, and poignant, and it is clear that all five women on the stage were having the time of their lives, not only delivering the stories and one-liners, but no doubt recalling their own personal stories. As they explained in the talkback session, ad-libbing is strictly forbidden during the show, although Dussault is allowed some latitude in her throwaway lines, especially when she attempts to draw a picture of herself with a marking pen to illustrate a point.
Love, Loss & What I Wore is a delightful evening at the theater for both men and women. Come as you are.