It has been said that “Clothes make the man.” But let’s be less gender-specific and theorize: “Clothes make the person.” Love, Loss, and What I Wore, the latest offering of Actors Comedy Lab and North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, solidly supports that theory.
Written by sisters Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, based on Ilene Beckerman’s book, the script is comprised of 28 short scenes in which the characters reflect on their past, finding significant touchstones in their past and present wardrobes. Most of the stories are quite funny, several are rather revealing and thought-provoking, and some are poignant.
Under Rod Rich’s direction, the pace is brisk; and the scenes are tightly focused. Nancy Rich has supplied a series of illustrations (which are projected on a stage-left screen) that serve as visual aids, signaling scene changes and visually augmenting the characters’ narratives.
The screen is an integral part of Todd Houseknecht’s simple-yet-effective set, which includes a series of clotheslines on which the characters have hung “what [they] wore.” Dressed in black, the five actors are seated in director’s chairs downstage.
With ginger-colored hair, “Gingy” begins the first scene; “Gingy’s Story Part 1.” As Gingy, Gilly Conklin amiably draws us into the character’s past, sharing sketches of herself as far back as when she wore her first Brownie Scout uniform and including such important clothing as her first “store-bought” dress. “Gingy’s Story” continues with four more parts interspersed among the other scenes, giving us an overview of her life, including her progression from her first love-interest through her three subsequent marriages. Each time, Conklin projects Gingy’s self-aware (and, sometimes, a bit ironic) empathy with her past self.
Alison Lawrence, Kirsten Ehlert, Morrisa Nagel, and Page Purgar each portray multiple characters who share a variety of stories. All of the stories are entertaining and captivating. All of the actors are animated and charismatic. Among the funniest stories are “What My Mother Said,” “The Bra,” “The Dressing Room,” and “Madonna.” However, the one that drew the most audience reaction was Alison Lawrence’s “I Hate My Purse.”
Insights into the importance of clothing to our self-image and sense of identity abound in such scenes as “The Gang Sweater,” “The Shirt,” and “The Prom Dress.” The most enduring moments, we felt, were to be found in “The Bathrobe,” “Boots,” and “Brides.”
But the show is not limited to monologues. Several of the stories are told (and acted out) by multiple characters. Some of them involve a series of lightning-fast stichomythic lines, and the timing is superb. On occasion, two characters are simultaneously telling “the same story (only different).” This device also works seamlessly.
As with all top-notch works of art, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, besides being entertaining, imparts a measure of understanding of what we know as “the human condition” and thus a degree of self-knowledge. We recommend catching one of the remaining performances at 8 pm on April 28th and 29th and at 3 p.m. on April 30th.
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.