‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ an Entertaining Take on Women and Fashion (3.5 stars)

“Love, Loss, and What I Wore” Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman; Developed by Nora and Delia Ephron; Directed by Paula Plum. Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston at the First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St., Boston through August 3rd. Tickets for all shows are “Pay What You Can”.

Considering that I have the fashion sense of a colorblind lumberjack, I realized after seeing the Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s entertaining production of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”, that I may not have been the best choice to review this particular piece. So following the show, I asked a tastefully dressed 50ish woman if the sense of well-being for women was really THAT tied into their clothing choices (rightly or wrongly) or was the content of the play just grossly exaggerated for comic effect? “You have no idea,” she said shaking her head. “We have a daughter getting married soon, and it’s just like “Bridezillas” (the reality show which airs on the WE: Women’s Entertainment network) as we’re looking for that wedding dress. And shopping for a prom dress 10 years earlier was just as bad,” she laughed. Having once been married for over ten years, I should have remembered the fear I would experience when my wife, while trying on her 11th dress just ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for an event would ask, “Does this dress make me look fat?” So the characterizations of women and their intimate relationships to clothes and accessories are apparently NOT exaggerated for comic purposes. Which isn’t to say the show isn’t funny, it’s just that the laughs for most of the women in the audience seemed to come from identification with rather than the apparent absurdity of the material.

In short, “What I Wore” brings together five women (Theresa Chiasson, Adobuere Ebiama, Lauren Elias, Linda Goetz, June Kfoury) of various ages, sizes and cultural identities and each adopts a number of characters who tell their stories, with each piece anchored by some common theme of women’s fashion dilemmas. There are stories about clueless Moms fashion advice, prom dresses, purses, the Madonna phase (the pop icon – not the religious one), bra shopping, shoes, and the weight issue (too much and too little). If this sounds a little counter to feminist thinking, you’re right, but the audience – mostly theater-going women – didn’t seem to mind, and no-one stormed out. One reason may have been that in addition to the laughs this show provided, there were also some serious themes running underneath the frivolity – the death of the mother of Gingy (the show’s only recurring character – played by June Kfoury) when she was 12, a women’s reaction to her rape, breast cancer, and marital issues. Goetz gets a couple of the weightier roles and gives a moving performance as the woman who develops breast cancer at 27, undergoes a double mastectomy and has breast reconstruction.

The show is simply staged, with the women seated in five chairs in the cozy theater space, with each alternately getting up and telling their stories, sometimes in tandem. It was well-received by both men and women I spoke with after the show, but obviously resonated much more strongly with the women due to the content and female cast. I generally don’t review any theater along gender lines, but this is kind of a theatrical chick flick of a show, so I don’t expect any platoons of U.S. Marines platoons or biker clubs to be showing up, but men can enjoy this as well. Besides, as a pay-what-you-can show, audiences have the option of paying on the way in as well as on the way out if they truly enjoy the performance, so it’s definitely worth your time.