Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Based on the 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman, Delia and Nora Ephron added stories of their own and from other close friends to form an emotional patchwork of life lessons. The 100-minute show is framed by the character of Gingy, whose story anchors the show and is interspersed throughout. While we get to know more about Gingy than any of the other women, the stories still resonate. The show touches upon many key garment decisions in life, such as finding the right wedding or prom dress, the pros and cons of purses, the battle of the bra, and the loss of your favorite shirt. But beneath these tales is what they are really aboutthe sometimes strained dynamics of mothers/daughters and sisters/husbands, the men who come into and out of the women's lives, life's embarrassing situations, and more serious issues such as rape and cancer.
While a lot of topics and territory are covered, there isn't much "love" or "loss" in the vignettes, so the title is a bit misleading. Also, while wardrobe choices are universal, many of the stories are New York City based, which does somewhat limit the scope of the piece.
The 11 members of the cast are expert in morphing from one character to another and having a clear understanding of the material and the various characters they inhibit. While there isn't a weak link in the group, Marcia Weinberg is exceptional as Gingy, instilling her part with the regal, authoritative tone of a woman who has lived a very rich and full life and makes no apologies for the mistakes she's made along the way. Also, Mary Coleman does excellent work playing a woman who has breast cancer and who rises above the stigma and pain of it by refusing to become a victim to the disease.
Suarez's direction is bright and breezy yet grounded and full of importance for the more serious stories, and her decision to expand on the original concept of the show was a wise one. Mary Robinson's projections provide images of many dress designs and items mentioned in the stories, providing a nice visual detail that rounds out the vignettes. Suarez's decision to have all of the women dressed in black allows for the bright colored clothing on display on her well-crafted set to pop.
Love, Loss and What I Wore provides an interesting view into the way everyone, and not just women, remembers specific articles of clothing they were wearing at key moments in their lives. While I wish the piece were a bit more serious, Theatre Artists Studio's production features an exceptional cast and clear direction and the end result is a charming, often very funny, overview of many key moments in a woman's life.
Love, Loss, and What I Wore at Theatre Artists Studio runs through September 18th, 2016, with performances at 4848 East Cactus Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are on sale at www.TheStudioPHX.org or by calling 602-765-0120.
Written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman