The house lights go down. They move to their seats. The stage lights blaze. And there they are—five women. Each beautiful in her own way. Each unique. And yet, in these five women, by the end of Love, Loss, and What I Wore, the audience meets all women. Beautifully written by superstar sisters Nora and Delia Ephron based on a book by Ilene Beckerman, the story of women and their love/hate relationships with clothes would seem on first blush to be a rather shallow one, but it is, in fact, the exact opposite. Subtly interpreted for the Actors Guild of Parkersburg by director Barbara Full and fantastically performed by Full, Lisa Starcher Collins, Morgan Stubbe, Jaliyah Townsend, and Randi Wilson, this is a funny, sad, serious, tragic tale that every woman will relate to. Men should feel they are being given a treasured insight into the struggles women face daily, as symbolized by the clothing women wear and don’t wear and can’t wear and can’t stop wearing.
The play is more a sequence of visual and oral essays built around the frame of a series of drawings made by Gingy, played so well by Lisa Starcher Collins. The drawings are of clothing she wore as she grew up and then as an adult, with each piece of clothing attached to the memory of a major life event, such as the first dress her mother, played by Barbara Full, bought her; the dresses her father bought her for her thirteenth birthday, shortly after her mother died; her wedding dresses, and clothes she associates with the births of her children. In between, we meet women of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Sometimes the vignettes are solo affairs while others incorporate two or three of the players. One of the best of the group scenes features Jaliyah Townsend, who fell in love with a man because of his cowboy boots. Her sisters, Wilson and Stubbe, hate the man and wish their sister could see how manipulative he is. Though there is cynical, almost sardonic humor throughout, probably the most overtly funny scenes are called “Clothes Lines,” in which all five actors talk about different aspects of the same topic, like bras, dressing rooms, the color black, and dressing like Madonna.
While some of the stories are indeed humorous, others are quite sad, especially one in which a woman tells of removing miniskirts from her wardrobe in response to being raped, and others that depict memories of divorce and loss of loved ones. One particularly poignant scene featuring Randi Wilson and Morgan Stubbe is both happy and sad in that the two convey memories of clothes that are attached to each person’s wedding. Wilson’s family is not supportive of her because she is marrying another woman. Stubbe’s family, though, is over the moon with excitement and even help her pick out the perfect dress.
Performed in reader’s theater style, each actor portrays multiple characters and there is not a single scene that isn’t spot on. The timing and chemistry between the women are simply terrific. It is obvious this is a labor of love for the entire cast. One of the things that is particularly effective is that it does not appear any thought is given at all to matching the women to the physical descriptions that are given. This is partly because the actors all play various women of various ages and races, but it seems another reason behind this choice is to illustrate that they are each depicting, to a great degree, the experiences of all women. This is illustrated poignantly at the end of the show when Gingy expresses surprise that anyone would want to publish her book of illustrations and family observations, as it was all her personal memories and feelings. But when the book becomes wildly popular, she realizes that, though they are primarily her stories, they are also the stories of all women.
You will love this show if you’re a woman or love a woman or even just know a woman. It is a great show presented by some amazingly talented people. So, get your tickets soon by going to the Guild’s website, but don’t wait—there are only three performances, two evening shows on Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17 at 8:00 pm and one matinee on Sunday, April 18 at 2:30 pm. Tickets will be at an even greater premium due to COVID-related seating limitations, which makes it all the more important that you get your seats now. You’ll be glad you did.