Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love, Loss and I - Love, Loss, and What I Wore - A Totally Biased Review

Love, Loss, and What I Wore - Westside Theatre - Off-Broadway, New York, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Love, Loss, and What I Wore - Panasonic Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, Directed by Karen Carpenter

Ok, so here's the full disclosure first. I was in NYC this past winter and was invited to go see Love, Loss, and What I Wore. I went, I loved, I laughed, I surprisingly enjoyed myself at a show that seemed highly geared towards women. A few months later, my friend, the same one who invited me to see it, had the rights to the show for its Toronto premiere, and since I was no longer at my former TV gig, and loved and knew a lot about theatre, ended up joining onto the Canadian production of the show. So yes, I work for the Toronto production of the show, so I'm completely biased here, but as a theatre fan, I thought I'd still share my review with you anyways and you can take it for whatever you want. (But either way, PLEASE COME SEE THE SHOW! HA. Okay, there's my shilling... let's move on...)

So in case you don't know yet, the new play based on Ilene Beckerman's book, is by sisters Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia, You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle) and Delia Ephron (You've Got Mail, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and directed by Karen Carpenter, are a series of vignettes and stories about women and clothes told in a series of monologues by 5 actresses who read them from stands while seated. I know. Doesn't sound all that exciting but the Ephron's know how to balance off the drama and the laughter between the stories, sometimes whipping back and forth from one emotion to another, sometimes in the same story, sometimes by the order they're placed in.

The stories range from charming, to hysterical, to tragic, and while there are some slower moments that I just couldn't connect with, it wouldn't be too long before we got another zinger. Some of the laughs come from cliched stereotypes, but the Ephron's mold them well enough as starting points into deeper issues that get to the core of how clothes and self-image truly affects women and their sense of self.

The original production in New York, and thus subsequently copied in Los Angeles and now Toronto, uses a rotating cast of 5 "celebrity" actresses that change every month. When I saw it in New York, I had a wonderful cast of Michelle Lee, Debra Monk (Curtains, Grey's Anatomy), Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends), Katie Finneran (Tony winner for Promises, Promises, Wonderfalls), and Casey Wilson (Saturday Night Live).

In Toronto, the current first cast consists of (above, from l-r) Mary Walsh ("Marg Delahunty" from This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Louise Pitre (Tony nominee for Broadway's Mamma Mia, Dora winner for The Toxic Avengers the Musical), Andrea Martin (SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Exit the King, Young Frankenstein the Musical, Hedwig the Angry Inch etc.), Paula Brancati (Degrassi: TNG, Being Erica) and Sharron Matthews (Cabaret Star, Les Mis),

Both casts are fabulous but it's fun to see what the different actresses bring to each story.

While all the actresses in NYC were wonderful, I particularly remember Tracee Ellis Ross bringing her effervescent laugh and distinctive and eloquent cadence to the rhythm of her monologues, and Katie Finneran just has a natural comedic timing that she hides under her big fashionable blonde mane that she snappily uses to sharpen every comic button (which she later used to win her a Tony Award for Promises, Promises). Casey Wilson had some nice moments of her own while Debra Monk has such a commanding presence that you certainly feel a motherly grip with her performance.

The first Canadian cast is full of known funny ladies that it's hard to tell who outdoes one another when you have the talents of Andrea Martin, Mary Walsh, Louise Pitre and Sharron Matthews all-together on one stage. Each manage to pull out enormous laughs (just a look from Andrea Martin can send the theatre into roaring laughter) but they all also excel at flipping the switch to more tender or dramatic moments. I mean, each one has been used to commanding the stage on their own, but it's even more special watching them share the stage in a sisterly bond.

Still, my favorites might be Walsh doing Marveline, fixing a bra in a utility closet dressing room, Andrea Martin ranting about purses, Sharron Matthews (whose cabaret I have finally discovered just recently and now bow down to her world dominating show) looking in jealousy at the thin Martin, while Pitre keeps the flow of it all as Gingey, whose is the only storyline that continues throughout the show, holding it all together. While her Eileen Fisher wardrobe might disguise her real life fit arms, Pitre is at her best when we get to giggle along with her tales of her numerous beaux's, all while feeling the sadness that underlays the trials and tribulations of her life.

Paula Brancati, the youngest cast member, holds her own against the more known fabulous cast, but Brancati truly excels in adding layers to the sweetness of her stories, and giving dramatic heft to stories about prom dresses, boots, and being a bride.

On an additional note, just wanted to point out Jeff Croiter's (Next Fall) simple but beautiful lighting design that is essentially the entire set, and along with the animated casts movements, manages to convey all the setting needed to bring the read stories to life. Andrea Martin practically jumps out of her chair several times, but with both the New York and the Toronto casts, it's surprisingly how much imagery the actors, under Karen Carpenter's direction, can create while simply sitting on their chairs.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Esther said...

Well I saw the show in New York and loved it. I'm not at all interested in fashion or accessories but the stories really got to me. I'd encourage anyone to see it in New York, L.A. or of course, Toronto. The purse segment is one of my favorites and Andrea Martin must be hilarious!