Before Love, Loss, and What I Wore began, the intimacy of the theater let the audience know this was going to be a deeply personal play. Five chairs lined the edge of the stage, and each chair was partnered with a music stand. To the left of the chairs stood a coat rack, which was baron save for a few coat hangers.
The chairs soon became occupied by reputable names in television, Broadway, and the big screen such as Katie Finneran, Michele Lee, Debra Monk, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Casey Wilson. All of them are part of a rotating cast with other familiar faces like Rosie O’ Donnell, Caroline Rhea and Carol Kane.
The expectations were high as the well-known stars prepared to read from a script partly created by Nora Ephron, one of the leading forces in the romantic comedy genre. Her credentials include When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and most recently the critically acclaimed Julie and Julia. Her tag-team partner in the writing department, sister Delia Ephron, is responsible for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and also collaborated with Nora on You’ve Got Mail.
After the chairs were filled, the rest of the props’ uses were realized. The scripts for the play were found in the music stands, and the once empty coat rack became a display for crude drawings of different outfits discussed throughout the course of the play.
The illustrations served as a vehicle to transport the many varied stories of love, sisterhood, marriage, and parenting smoothly through the night. As a chronological buildup of young children to married couples, the collective stories included no discrimination against age, race or sexual orientation, and were equally accessible to everyone. Men and women together in the audience had their share of laughs during the performance, although the feminine persuasion certainly was favored in the demographic.
The trademark blend of light-hearted, but hard-hitting, laughs mixed with a dash of dark, emotional anecdotes came forth strong from the romantic comedy duo. Quick back-and-forth conversations resulted in the biggest laughs of the night, employing the popular “Who’s on First?” comedic timing style. The writing for the most part held substantial meaning, but the more dramatic stories failed to deliver a concrete message, often resulting in an awkward tension.
Director Karen Carpenter made a daring decision placing the scripts on stage with the actors, which caused some weak energy at certain points. A turn of the page in the middle of an effective line delivery caused a slight pause in an actor’s speech and eliminated the comedic or dramatic effect completely.
However, the ability to use the scripts without the nasty interruptions could be found as well when a synchronized page turn at the end of a good joke added a few extra giggles and kept the energy high. The scripts themselves didn’t defer from the integrity or the intimacy of the play, and when employed by better-rehearsed actors, were virtually unnoticed.
The Ephron sisters remained faithful to both their roots and demographics with their newest off-Broadway success. The always socially relevant and accessible writers produced yet another piece of work, which, under the direction of Carpenter, led to a fun, light-hearted night for young and old couples alike.
Love, Loss and What I Wore plays Off-Broadway at The Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues).
When the box office opens at noon on the day of the show, a limited number of rush tickets may be available for $25 each. Cash only, two tickets per person.