Photo by Amy Boyle
My coworker gave me a lacy bra…. because I had cancer.
I love boots…. but then I got raped.
I wore this sweet maternity dress when I was pregnant with my son…who died at eighteen months.
There. I just saved you seventy bucks and ninety minutes. Go buy an Eileen Fisher sweater and take a yoga class. Or grab your bestie and get facials, or just binge on Entenmann's and clean your closet; anything that reminds you of your ovaries. Bonus points if it makes you feel bonded and nostalgic too.
Because that’s what Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love Loss and What I Wore wants: to grant a women of a certain age and means the opportunity to nod wryly and swear that, even with all her problems, you know, like those spats with her sisters, the difficulty finding a pair of heels that doesn’t pinch, she’s still got grandkids and lots of swoopy scarves, so gosh darn it, she’s doing just fine!
Based on the 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman, LLAWIW began as part of a summer series in East Hampton NY. (Of course it did.) Since its inception, it has been produced internationally and often with a star-studded cast. To be fair, the low-tech show has plenty of laugh out loud lines and offers the sort of offbeat moments distinctive to the Ephrons. Set up Vagina Monologue style-- women, music stands, a bunch of somewhat interchangeable characters—LLAWIW uses Gingie (Barbara Robertson) as a focal point, interweaving hundreds of other women’s stories as well. Though many monologues grow mawkish, due in large part to the “now I’m going to tell you something sad voice” nearly all of the cast members employ, several are saved by the quintessential Ephron ability to counter the listener’s assumptions, leaving them somewhere fresh and new. Hard to come by in a show rife with dated references and passé slang. Set in its midst, young actors Roni Geva and Katie O’Brien, strain credulity. In a saccharine gay wedding scene that hijacks the show’s already flabby middle, Geva maintains stellar timing, but O’Brien fares poorly as the least believable tuxedo-sporting lesbian in history.
As for the rest of the group, energetic Felicia Fields lobs some great one-liners, though her energy flags a bit during the longer pieces. Robertson as a sort of MC, exudes melodrama and smugness. And Saturday Night Live Alum, Nora Dunn is the guy in the horror movie whose window the heroine bangs on only to find he’s in cahoots with her captors. A brilliantly funny performer, Dunn got my hopes up, opening strong and nailing her sarcastic quickies, but rather than memorize longer monologues, she rarely lifts her eyes from the page.
Back in the day, Sex and the City captured a nation’s mind by dressing up a gaggle of relatable friends in outrageous clothes. Now LLAWIW asks us to attach to an anonymous group simply by virtue of their love of fashion, a much harder sell. My companion pointed this out to me (All reviewers have companions, we need them to straighten our bowties and in my case, apologize to the patron whose drink I upended in my haste to flee.) when, driving home as we fell into conversation about memorable clothing and where to get a proper bra fitting. (My companion recommends Schwartz's, near Skokie.) Throughout our Ephron approved discussion, I felt self-conscious, lightly ashamed.
I don’t want to relate to the roped-off inhabitants of LLAWIW’s theatrical world, one meant to compel wistfulness and female inclusively. I much prefer for example, Sam Shepard’s beautifully broken humanity, buried children and all. In the end, Love, Loss and What I Wore does not represent advancement, but rather just another glass ceiling, one reflecting that darling sweater set we just happened to throw on.
Love, Loss and What I Wore runs through December 4th. Purchase tickets here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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