Five women sit in a row onstage and talk about being women. Their subjects range from buying a bra to their obsession with boots to the enduring chic of the color black. They talk about marriage and divorce and the death of a child. And most of all, they talk about their mothers.
It’s a hilarious, poignant, and passionate exposition of the lives of many women, but mostly it’s the voice of its creators, Nora and Delia Ephron, and it’s called ”Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”
The binding element is Carol Kane (”Taxi,” “Hester Street,” “Wicked,” “The Princess Bride”), who illustrates her ongoing story with drawings of the outfits she wore at critical moments in her life. They range from her Brownie uniform all the way to the dress, hat, and heels that her four-year-old granddaughter wears to play “dress-up.”
The other four actresses, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus to supplement Kane’s story with their own stories and digressions, are Caroline Aaron, probably best known for her performances as a regular in Woody Allen’s films, Natasha Lyonne (”American Pie” and ”Slums of Beverly Hills”), Tracee Ellis Ross (”Girlfriends,” “Labor Pains,” and ”The Vagina Monologues”), and Rita Wilson (”Chicago,” “Dinner with Friends,” and ”That Thing You Do!” and ”Sleepless in Seattle,” with her husband, Tom Hanks).
Each performer tells snippets from the life stories collected by the Ephrons in conversations with their friends and from the book by Ilene Beckerman. In addition, they participate in segments — called “Clothesline” — in which they offer quick, uproarious comments on the immediate subject being discussed. For example: in a rant called “The Closet” they each vociferously come to the conclusion that they have “nothing to wear!!!” In another, called “What My Mother Said,” they run down the traditional cliches that mothers have been pounding into daughters since the beginning of time: “Don’t eat that! You’ll get polio!” And from grandmothers: “For everything that ails you on the inside, drink tea. For the outside, vaseline!”
At times Ellis Ross and Lyonne morph into feuding sisters and spew dialogue that could have come from the Smothers Brothers, but one has the sneaking suspicion that they come straight from the Ephron sisters themselves. (In addition to Nora and Delia, there are two additional sisters, Amy and Hallie.)
Nora, who is a screenwriter, producer, director, and journalist, is probably best known for her screenplays for ”When Harry Met Sally,” ”Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” and last year’s ”Julie and Julia.”
She has been married three times, including for four years to journalist Carl Bernstein, a marriage which produced her two sons, an acrimonious divorce, and the novel (and subsequent film) ”Heartburn.” Now, happily married for 23 years to author and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, she sums up her philosophy in six words: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.”
Delia, three years younger, is also a screenwriter and producer, and has written six books, including ”Hanging Up,” which she and Nora collaborated on to create the screenplay for the 2000 film. The story of three sisters coping with the impending death of their father, the film starred Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, and Lisa Kudrow, with Walter Matthau playing their crotchety dad.
“Love, Loss, and What I Wore” opened in New York last October under the direction of Karen Carpenter and is still drawing crowds, as well as a rotating cast of actresses who perform in four-week cycles. Here in L.A., it is expertly directed by Jenny Sullivan, augmented by dramatic lighting flourishes by Lap Chi Chu.
“Love, Loss and What I Wore” is a hoot. Women will watch it with knowing nods of the head and large guffaws, but all those who ever had a mother or a girlfriend or a wife will also enjoy it very much.
This production, with the current cast, can be seen Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 pm. through May 30, at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave. in Westwood. A new cast takes over on June 1. Call (310) 208-5454 for reservations.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.