Love, Loss and What I Wore review – all dressed up by the Ephron sisters

Available online
A starry cast muse on first bras, prom dresses, marriage and motherhood in Nora and Delia Ephron’s magnificent celebration of clothes – and life

Over the years and alongside her screenwriting successes, the late Nora Ephron wrote personal pieces about fashion, mulling over her love of turtleneck sweaters, the vagaries getting a manicure in Manhattan and the inside of her Tardis-like handbag in typically wry, observant tones.

Then, in 2008, she teamed up with her sister, Delia Ephron, to write a play about what other women wore and why. It became a big hit and proved that fashion was much more than skin-deep, in the hands of the Ephron sisters at least.

Based on Ilene Beckerman’s 1995 memoir of the same name – which takes us from her Brownie uniform to the Diane Von Fürstenberg dress she wore when she met her third husband – the play combines her story with a chorus of women’s voices that speak about everything from their first bras and prom dresses to love, same-sex marriage, motherhood, divorce, grief, rape and cancer.

Now, the New York venue 92Y has released online a spirited one-night-only revival from 2017 that they hope will “bring comfort and inspiration” during lockdown. The show had a rotating – and glittery – roster of actors playing five parts during its run, and this performance unites Carol Kane (who largely narrates Beckerman’s story with a growly voice reminiscent of Marge Simpson) with Rosie O’Donnell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natasha Lyonne and Lucy DeVito.

Under the direction of Karen Carpenter, the cast tell the stories sitting down, their scripts in front of them. It has the look of a static work, but the actors bounce off each other and animate the parts with a narrative verve that creates its own sense of movement. Their tone switches from whimsical to bristling or profound and their fashion disasters or successes become moving aides-mémoire.

There are many heart-stopping moments: when Beckerman recognises the same style of dressing gown on her stepmother that her beloved dead mother wore; when a 27-year-old who has just had a mastectomy decides to tattoo her reconstructed breast. But the high points are there also in comic rejoinders and quick-fire one-liners that strike recognisable chords, from “This’ll fit when I lose 10 pounds” to the observation that “any American woman over 40 who says she has never dressed like Madonna is either lying or Amish”.

If Marie Kondo convinced some of us to purge our wardrobes, Love, Loss and What I Wore is an ode to holding on to all the too-small and unflattering outfits in our wardrobes, because it is these, too, that “spark joy” here by becoming lightning sparks to treasured memories. This is ultimately, a magnificent celebration of life though old but unforgotten clothes.

Available online until 25 May.

Contributor

Arifa Akbar

The GuardianTramp

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