BWW Reviews: TAP Celebrates WHAT I WORE, Womanhood and their Wardrobes
To celebrate women and the love/hate relationship they contemplate with their closets, Wisconsin's Sturgeon Bay', which opens the way to beautiful Door County, and Co Artistic Directors' Robert Boles and James Valcq of Third Avenue Playhouse present the late Nora Ephron's and her sister Delia's theater experience titled Love, Loss and What I Wore. The 2009 Off Broadway premiere won two Drama Desk Awards and will be considered one of the second longest running Off Broadway productions at the Westside Theatre. How fortunate Stage Door Theatre Company gives peninsula audiences a premiere opportunity to experience this worldwide hit show to end their winter season and brighten a cold spring.
The Ephron sisters, one of the few well known women authors, playwrights and producers in Hollywood or New York, are remembered for these classic movies, often romantic comedies: When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle and Nora Ephron's last play before her untimely death in 2012, Julia and Julia. This production Love, Loss and What I Wore, explores the sisterhood's loss in numerous ways by connecting how women lose their children, mothers, lovers, marriages, necks, arms, waists, and youth while their stories chronicle a women's life by what she hangs in her closet, ultimately her personal clothing choices.
James Valcq and Ryan Shaw designed the evocative production to focus on various memories told through dialogues or monologues spoken by six unidentified women sitting in chairs at the front of the stage. A narrator named Gingy begins the theater experience, well, at the beginning of her life by describing her Brownie uniform, and what that meant to her when she was a little girl. Another actor flips the pages where childlike drawings hanging on a hook illustrate the dresses Gingy wore during her days until she became a grandmother and figuratively "lost" her waist. Other actors then alternate with Gingy's memoirs by adding their own reminisces and remarks about clothes, which proclaim the tried and true "I have nothing to wear!" to "Why can't I zip these jeans up anymore?"
The mono or dialogues delightfully dish out humor, satire and the revealing truth reflecting what a women deals with on a daily basis, including the clothes she loses over the years. Some hidden under the seventh black turtleneck she purchased or the shirt she supposedly was unable to find when she broke up with her longtime boyfriend in her youth. All stories to fantasize or retell how prom dresses, wedding dresses, stilettos or thigh high boots and an ultimate "it" purse reshaped feminine lives. How what a woman wears poses a delicate balance between critical first impressions, self-expression and self-esteem that defines whether someone else names her persona chic, dowdy, frumpy or stylish, somehow either pretty or plain. And ultimately how these definitions make, break or elude a woman's outwardlyperformance, often ones she considers imperfect, on any given day.
Six talented actors discuss wardrobes with passion and poignancy, and include Chanda Davetas, Katie Harding, Hannah Johnson, Ginger Lawrence (in the narrator's role), Pam Miller and Ashley Wisneski directed by Door County favorite Amy Ensign in her theatrical debut behind instead of in front of the stage. While this accomplished cast represents any woman's walk down memory lane, the play might help explain to those masculine audience members why a dress, a pair of jeans, a necklace or special, perhaps even expensive pair of shoes can be so interconnected to significant moments for the women they love with truthful instead of sentimental enlightenment.
One fashion icon still idolized today would be celebrating her 85th birthday this May. The incomparable Audrey Hepburn believed, "clothes were a woman's armor." What she wore each day might just protect her from any emotional, mental and social trauma the world could throw at her. While the undergarments she wore behind the clothes became the underpinnings to a woman's intimate vision of her femininity, whether she had Hepburn's slim silhouette, grand "Baywatch" breasts, or was subjected to a battle with breast cancer, all scenarios the play exposes in poetic detail. And also underscores when one of the actors repeats that infamous phrase all mothers utter to a daughter or son: "Be sure to wear clean underwear in case you're in a car accident."
Whether one adheres to that parental philosophy or not, what a women wears, seen and unseen, chic black or beautifully colored, size Twiggy two or marvelously curvy, these clothes depict the woman and often become the outer soul of a her existence. Studio Theatre Company's delectable and dramatic must see once or even twice Love, Loss and What I Wore glorifies the wonders of being a women, with all the fine tuning and foibles directed at their personal wardrobes.
On opening night, the theater recognized Door County's nonprofit Women's Fund, an organization that seeks to address or support issues of concern to girls and women. Please remember to consider the Fund when attending the show. Then, after laughing and sometimes crying while enjoying Stage Door's exceptional performance, walk out and take a chance. Draw a favorite accessory, dress or garment to hang on the string clothesline in the theater lobby, especially to honor the upcoming Mother's Day. The theater provides all the paper materials necessary for a creative effort to be dedicated to the outstanding work of Stage Door, first time director Amy Ensign and the gifted women actors. Then celebrate any other woman in one's life who can be seen as uniquely lovable when appreciated in the fabulous clothes she wears.
Stage Door Theatre Company presents Nora and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss and What I Wore at Sturgeon Bay's Third Avenue Playhouse at 239 North Third Street through May 18. For information, schedules or tickets, please call: 920.743.1300 or www.thirdavenueplayhouse.org