Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love, Loss, And What I Wore (The SOB Review)

Love, Loss, And What I Wore (The SOB Review) - The Westside Theatre, New York, New York

*** (out of ****)

I'll readily admit that I'm most certainly not in the target audience for Love, Loss, And What I Wore.

You don't even have to enter Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre to grasp that this is an intimate evening aimed first and foremost at females of all ages.

But like every guy, I have a mother. I even grew up with an older sister. And fortunately for me, I'm blessed with a host of very special relationships with some exceptional women. So while Love, Loss, And What I Wore is made for women, it's certainly strong enough for men with tale after familiar tale that will recall everything we know and love about the better sex. Male or female, we can all relate.

Blessed with a rotating cast of five, Love, Loss, And What I Wore is a much more accessible Vagina Monologues for the 21st Century. Please don't misunderstand. I found Eve Ensler's groundbreaking selections of staged readings from the last decade to be potent, brave and empowering. But let's face it, the title alone translated to my being one of relatively few men in its audience. In fact, I felt every bit as conspicuous there as I did the time I took in an "Oprah" taping.

While there were more masculine faces in the Westside Theatre, it's really deserving of significantly more. That's because regardless of our gender, most of us should be able to identify with this dramatic, funny and often poignant reading of "an intimate collection of stories" from the mother/daughter team of Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron.

Even though it's not afraid to wear its outsized heart on its beautifully crafted sleeve, Love, Loss, And What I Wore stitches its myriad swatches of vignettes ranging from marriage, infidelity and divorce to breast cancer with a common thread: essentially how profound passages from disparate women's lives are accessorized by memorable apparel. But rather than serving as window dressing, the attire constitutes quintessential landmarks for remembering the milestones in these ladies' lives.

When I caught this past Sunday's show, it not only featured Tyne Daly, who continues with Love, Loss, And What I Wore through November 15, but also Samantha Bee, Katie Finneran, Natasha Lyonne and Rosie O'Donnell. Even though this is staged as a reading, it became apparent very quickly that each of the actresses had taken their assigned sketches to heart, rarely glancing at the music stands in front of them as if only to turn the page.

With a graceful maturity, Daly grounds the production throughout. The Tony-winning Finneran handled most of the heaviest lifting of the show's particuarly weighty topics, but she did so with a calming ease, almost as if she was merely putting on a lightweight coat. Lyonne offered a no-nonsense approach, while Bee added a delightful dose of humor, especially as a German shrink. Yet it was the warmhearted O'Donnell who surprised the most in mining the most laughs, but in a most reverential fashion.

Clocking in at a mere 85 minutes, director Karen Carpenter paces Love, Loss, And What I Wore with style and care. With topics that will touch the hearts of both sexes, what would I tell any guy asking if the show is worth seeing?

Womanly yes, but I liked it, too.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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