Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Love, Loss and What I Wore

 front row from left: Kendra Malm, Andrea Weston-Smart, Jane Brody, Nicole Gaylean; back row from left: Diana Purvine, Carol Richmond, Sharry O'Hare, Claire McPherson, Jean Kivi. Photo by Austin C. Lang

Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora Ephron and her sister, Delia Ephron, at Olympia Little Theatre is a charming look into the lives of about 28 women as seen through the device of a clothes closet — a very big clothes closet. The show started with nine clothing racks at the back of the stage loaded with every size, shape and color of dresses, skirts and jackets imaginable; and actors and stagehands kept bringing more in from offstage.

Don’t look for any discernible dramatic arc or story line. Love, Loss and What I Wore is a series of sketches united only by the idea of clothing. The literary conceit around which the Ephrons have built their stories is that a group of women recall items of clothing they have bought, begged or borrowed, and these memories in turn spur memories of events in their lives. As the title implies, many of these memories are about love and loss — a first crush, first kiss, first sexual experience; and the loss of parents and loved ones through death or divorce. There are tragic scenes and touching scenes, but mostly charming and humorous scenes such as a hilarious scene in which the women all talk about trying on their first bras; or when Andrea Weston-Smart tells a story about her love-hate affair with shoes. She says heels make her look great but hurt like hell, so she goes through a period of wearing flat shoes and ends up wearing heels again because she’d rather look good than feel good.

I was told that the stories are all based on real people and events. I was also warned that it is a show for women and that men may not be able to relate. It is true that we men have never had to try on bras or worry about monthly menstrual leakage and I would guess many of us don’t care if our pants make our butts look big; but we can relate, and I saw many men in the audience who were reacting with glee. We get it.

Every member of the all-female cast but one, Sharry O’Hare as Gingy, played multiple characters. I found it impossible to keep track of who was who and how they related to each other if at all, but I don’t think that mattered in the least, because their stories didn’t have to relate. Also every cast member except O’Hare played “the clothesline” a kind of Greek Chorus of women and their clothes — a clever and entertaining device.

Overall I thought the cast was outstanding. I got the sense that every one of them was able to personally empathize with the characters they were playing. 

Carol Richmond (as Dora, Pam, Lynne, Eve, Geralyn and others) was wonderfully expressive and seemed to truly embody each of these many characters. 

Diana Purvine and Claire McPherson played the elder women, meaning mostly mothers, but in some scenes played against type as young girls. They were each very much believable as real people. Purvine has worked backstage for 25 years but this is only her second outing as an actor, and she is a natural. McPherson is new to Olympia but has more than 30 years’ acting experience, and it shows in her ease on stage.

Kendra Malm was very expressive with big gestures that were a joy to watch, as was Nicole Gaylean; maybe not as expansive as Malm, but delightful nevertheless.

Jane Brody and Jean Kivi were sensitive and nuanced, but could have played their roles with the broader expressions this script seems to demand.

O’Hare has not acted in Olympia since 1987, but she has been a favorite in Tacoma area musical theater for well over two decades, most notably, perhaps, in her recent two-person play 6 Dance Lessons in 6 Weeks with her husband, Micheal O’Hara and in her triumphal role as Louise Seger in Always ... Patsy Cline at Tacoma Little Theatre. In Love, Loss and What I Wore she lights up the stage every time she speaks.

Directed by Kathryn Beall, Love, Loss and What I Wore is great escapist entertainment that women should be able to relate to and men should be able to learn from. The program carries the warning that there is some adult language. I’m tempted to say so what. 

Opening night was almost sold out, so it is a good idea to get tickets early.

WHEN: 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday through July 28
WHERE: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia
TICKETS: $10-$14, available at Yenney Music Company on Harrison Avenue (360-943-7500) or
INFORMATION: 360-786-9484,

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