Toronto, July 24, 2010: Think about fashion and, immediately, images of clothes, colour, fabric and texture come to mind. It seems impossible to vividly picture fashion without actually seeing it. But, as Love, Loss and What I Wore proves, it’s not only impossible but, in fact, rather easy.
Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, the play was written by renowned Nora and Delia Ephron. Each sister has quite an impressive list of credits to her name. Nora Ephron’s work includes When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, while Delia Ephron’s portfolio has The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and You’ve Got Mail among others. Add to the mix Karen Carpenter as the director, producers Daryl Roth (who holds the singular distinction of producing six Pulitzer Prize plays) and Michael Rubinoff (the man behind Jewtopia and BoyGroove The Musical), as well as a celebrity cast, and the result is a production that is as unforgettable as it is different.
Love, Loss is an intimate collection of stories told by women. It has an all-female cast of five, but each actress plays several characters, except for the lead, who assumes the role of Ilene Beckerman and tells the story of her life.
All women wear black and do not change their clothes throughout the play. In fact, they do not even stand up, since the entire piece is a recital of their memories. The women sit on stools and deliver spotlight monologues. They occasionally turn and talk to each other when their characters happen to be acquainted or related, but they mostly recount individual stories of passion, failure, family, love and friendships.
The play focuses on ways in which clothing can trigger memories and take the characters back to the most poignant, touching, happy or miserable moments in their past. The play’s only flaw is the fact that all stories are read aloud. This may go with the overall theme of recounting the story of the past, keeping track of the memories and the way Ilene Beckerman put all recollections together in a book. Yet the production would have been much stronger if the women didn’t read and faced the audience the whole time.
The cast does not disappoint, however.
Paula Brancati of the Degrassi and Being Erica fame, assumes characters that are fragile but strong-minded, sweet but protesting, shy but determined. Brancati has an incredible ability to switch emotions and to match her facial expressions to any scene, be it a truly hilarious moment or a very heartbreaking one.
Sharron Matthews’ multi-talents have taken her from films and television, to stage, theatre and even cabaret. Some of the hit films she has starred in include Mean Girls, Cinderella Man, Take the Lead and Hairspray: The Movie. In Love, Loss, Matthews mostly plays women with self-esteem problems, whether they are relationship, weight or family-related. Her characters are truly amicable. They are those women who, despite all their issues, any one of us can become best friends with.
Mary Walsh is the recipient of the Order of Canada. No stranger to feature films and television series, her credits include Murdoch Mysteries, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Crackie and Mambo Italiano. Her characters in Love, Loss can be described in one word – hilarious. They are intense, trouble-making, fun-loving, experimenting women, who often get into rather peculiar and comical situations.
Louise Pitre assumes the role of Ilene Beckerman. She takes us through Beckerman’s life, by pointing to blow up posters by her side, which are sketches of the clothes she wore at various important moments in her past. Pitre’s portrayal of Beckerman is confident, charming and warm-hearted. Pitre’s credits include Broadway’s Mamma Mia, and she is a winner of four Dora Mavor Moore Awards, the National Broadway Touring Award, a New York Theatre World Award, a San Francisco Critics’ Circle Award and a Bessie Award.
But the hands-down shining star is the renowned Andrea Martin. Her characters are so complex and multi-faceted that they do not feel like they are characters from a play. Every time Martin tells a new story, her character feels like it is someone sitting next to the spectator, recounting what happened to them recently. These characters are real, they have a fantastic sense of humour and they can easily be someone you know. Martin is a winner of Emmy, Tony, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards. One of her more recent career highlights is starring on Broadway alongside Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon in the highly-acclaimed Exit the King.
The greatest aspect of the play is the ability of characters to talk about issues that resonate not only with all women but also many men. One such example is the scene where they talk about “the closet.” Endless jokes and sarcastic remarks of desperation ensue, as the women panic about their inability to choose what to wear, find anything or like anything. As they scream and shout in agonizing anguish that is both comical and extremely realistic, the audience laughs and claps. It’s peculiar to see how male spectators laugh just as much as the females do. After the play, many of them said that this phenomenon is not sex-discriminate – apparently, men have trouble choosing what to wear too. Who knew!
Other memorable scenes include the “black” colour, how truly amazing it is and why all women love it; “the bra,” because let’s face it, no woman is ever truly happy about her breasts; “the favourite shirt,” that one-and-only, which can never be replaced and goes with everything; and “the purse,” with a price that can range from thousands of dollars to several dozen and that, no matter its size, will never fit a woman’s belongings.
The detailed description of the stories creates a very personal connection between the spectator and the cast. These are the stories that not every woman is prepared to share, but the ability of characters to talk about such intimate matters brings them closer to the spectator’s heart. And these stories stay close to us even after the curtain goes down.
Love, Loss and What I Wore runs until Sept. 4, 2010 at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto. Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m. and matinee on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35-65, with premium seats available. A portion of ticket sales goes to benefit Dress for Success.
For more information, go to http://www.lovelossonstage.ca
The original New York production featured Rosie O’Donnell, Samantha Bee, Tyne Daly, Katie Finneran and Natasha Lyonne.
The Toronto cast will rotate on August 10 to Lauren Collins, Wendy Crewson, Cynthia Dale and Margot Kidder.