AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron
based on the book by Ilene Beckerman
Presented by San Jose Repertory Theatre
Directed by Karen Carpenter
San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose, CA / (408) 367-7255

Reviewed by Judy Richter

It's said that clothes make the man, but in many ways, clothes are even more important to a woman.

This becomes abundantly clear in the hilarious "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," directed by Karen Carpenter and presented by San Jose Repertory Theatre by special arrangement with Daryl Roth.

Two sisters, Delia Ephron and the late Nora Ephron, based the show on the book by Ilene Beckerman and then added some flourishes of their own.

The format is simple: Five actresses, each in black, sit on bar chairs lined up downstage and read from scripts placed on music stands in front of them. During the course of about 100 minutes without intermission, they become various characters who have 28 stories to tell about how clothing played a role in important parts of their lives.

In this production, Dawn Wells plays Ginger, or Gingy, who serves as narrator and who describes her outfits starting with a Brownie uniform and continuing until her 4-year-old granddaughter has fun trying on Grandma's dresses and shoes. During that span of time, Gingy loses her mother at an early age, gets married and divorced several times and suffers the loss of a child.

Wells is joined onstage by Dee Hoty, Sandra Tsing Loh, Ashley Austin Morris and Zuzanna Szadkowski, who represent different ages and body types.

Szadkowski, a gifted comedienne, provides one of the evening's highlights with her monologue about purses. Starting with "I hate my purse," she describes how it has become the repository for necessities as well as flotsam and jetsam like lipstick tubes without tops, spilled Tic Tacs, old receipts and more. Of course, her purse is so stuffed with stuff that she can never find what she's looking for. But shopping for a new purse is a traumatic ordeal. By the time she had finished her monologue, every woman in the audience was roaring with laughter of recognition.

Other segments involve the women going to their closets to discover they have nothing to wear. Trying on new clothes in a dressing room is another ordeal. Morris, another gifted comedienne, talks about shoes. High heels look great, but they hurt her feet so much that she can't think. Choosing between looking good and thinking isn't easy, as she learns.

All five women chime in on their experiences with bras, especially their first bras, a right of passage every woman must endure. Then there's the ritual of choosing a prom dress.

Hoty has a moving story about a woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoes reconstructive surgery and gets a strategically placed tattoo to celebrate her recovery.

Loh and Morris team up to talk about two California women choosing wedding attire, a touching segment that ends with them marrying each other.

This 2009 play has been presented throughout the country with the same format. In many cases, one team of star actresses will appear for a short run, followed by another team and so on.

The reason for its success is obvious. Through comedy and poignancy, clothing becomes a metaphor for women's lives. Women recognize themselves and can laugh at themselves. Men in the audience can enjoy the show, too, because they've seen women through some of these experiences.

It's a great way to laugh long and loud.

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