I suppose every woman in Western Culture has a certain obsession with clothing. Whether we are hip fashionista's or middle aged woman just looking for a good fitting pair of black pants, our clothing has power that goes beyond the superficial in terms of our psyches.
Don't we all see ourselves in our minds eye at different stages of our lives in a dress we loved, in a pair of trendy pants we regret, or perhaps for one perfect moment, in an outfit that embodies the fantasy version of ourselves?
For me, the ultimate was a fashion shoot in which I was a model for the one and only time in my life, dancing around Battery Park City, 26 years old, looking Madonna -esque with teased bleach blonde hair, a black leather mini skirt and purple suede pumps. It was a day I felt young, alive and free. Of course, I remember what I wore.
This premise is explored in Nora and Delia Ephron's play "Love, Loss and What I Wore". This show played in NYC on Broadway in 2011 and closed this past March, a few months before Nora died.
Nora's influence was felt most powerfully (and commercially) in the hit films she wrote including "When Harry Met Sally", 'Heartburn" and "Sleepless in Seattle"
I knew walking into the theater that this was not going to be "Vagina Monologues Part 2" And, I was correct. This was kind of the anti-Vagina Monologues, despite the obvious similarities of five woman on stools, doing essentially a staged reading of monologues about their lives. This is not particularly raw or ground-breaking material. It is a fairly sanitized show skewing towards middle of the road entertainment.
Basically, the lives being explored are upper middle class white woman, many from NYC. Throughout the course of the show, they will share, through their monologues, their relationships to shoes, handbags, wearing black, their mothers, their sisters, marriage, divorce, cancer and grandchildren. Some of the monologues are poignant. Some are funny. Some struck me as one- dimensional.
In terms of our local production, we have five varied actresses in terms of type and experience. On one end of the spectrum, we have Debrianna Mansini and Alaina Warren Zachery. Both are really exceptional talents with years of stage and film work under their belts. On the other end of the spectrum , we have three younger actors including a high school student.
The performances were somewhat inconsistent, with the energy picking up whenever Debrianna and Alaina stepped forward in their monologues. Particularly rousing was Debrianna's rant on purses and even our small, dress rehearsal audience was laughing quite a bit in recognition .Debrianna also showed enormous range playing at least five different characters and nailing them all in terms of voice and tone pitch perfectly.
Alaina also did a beautiful job, as the reoccurring character, Gingy especially in delivering her last monologue about her granddaughter trying on her clothes. It was the most emotionally connected moment for me in the play all night.
Local beauty, Jenny Gabrielle has an interesting presence and natural ability, but I felt that with many of her characters, there were missed opportunities for more subtlety and texture. In particular, a monologue about a trauma and it's association with her boots left me flat in a moment I would have hoped would have more poignancy and meaning.
As I mentioned, there was one high school student, Gioia Berlin in this show. Though she has less stage time than the others, she comes across as a lovely young woman, and she holds her own with the other older actors. She captures some sweet moments of humor and innocence early on in the show.
SheriDan Johnson has a bubbly presence and lots of energy. She did a good job on her monologues though she would be well advised to stop overreacting to the other woman's stories. It was out of step with the rest of the production. And, any bold reactions from the woman onstage toward each other robs the audience of their own emotional experience.
I know that what I saw was a dress rehearsal, not a full out performance. Hopefully, this week-ends shows will get tighter and hit more of an emotional climax.
Certainly, it is worth seeing. Especially for woman as it is a pleasure indulging in the Universal moments of dressing rooms and shoe shopping. And the lingering fat/thin issues that plague our entitled American lives.