Love, Loss and What I Wore

By Philip Pearce

IT’S ALL ABOUT women’s fashions these days at the Carl Cherry Center in Carmel. The art gallery at Fourth and Guadalupe is featuring some local fashion-related artwork advertised as exemplifying “the make-or-break challenges associated with getting dressed.” In the adjoining 50-seat Cherry Hall Theater, the Center has revived its popular Off the Rack production of Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore.

I liked the play in June of 2013 and anything I said in my positive review back then goes for this repeat version. It’s a show that continues to offer a wry and witty view of the American female’s psyche based on the American female’s fervent and frequently fraught relationship with her clothing.

Once more, the lights come up on a clothes rack and a row of five chairs facing five music stands. Five gifted local actresses, if I dare use that somewhat discredited term, arrive, settle into their seats and scripts and proceed to tell us all about their lives and their clothes.

The wonderful SSusan Keenanusan Keenan (left) is back again as a troubled and impulsive New Yorker named Gingy, who supplies the only continuing story, narrated in segments, each based on one or more color-sketched outfits suspended from the clothes rack to her right.

Gingy is nothing if not amiable and she listens politely and even gratefully to a lot of expert advice about what men not to marry and what outfits not to acquire and then blandly marries the men and usually regrets buying the outfits.

Also making a return appearance is Anne Mitchell, marvelously determined, resourceful and to the point, sometimes as one of Gingy’s frustrated love and fashion guides, sometimes as one of the quartet of women who break into Ginny’s saga as a kind of choir or chorus. They offer monologues or spoken voice solos and quartets extolling or ruing the ins and outs of finding what to wear and then wearing it.

These interludes happen with the sort of pace and pizzazz you expect from a good Broadway musical number. And little wonder, as the words are the work of the devilishly clever Ephron sisters and the direction is again in the capable hands of the perceptive and witty Michael Bond.

If I detected a difference between this and the 2013 show it was that this latest seemed, if memory serves, to have more moments of gut-busting belly laughter than the earlier one.

Bios of all three newcomers indicate they are already known to local theatergoers, but opening night was my first experience of a tall, slim and hilarious blonde named Linda Dale, who nearly blows the roof off the Cherry with a side-splitting teenaged tirade aimed at a mother who’s just given her an outfit the teen knows is going to ruin the rest of her life.
Then there is Sherry Kefalas, who has been busy establishing herself and now seems to have arrived as one of the top comic talents of the local theater scene. She has a way with a smirk or a grin or punch line or all three at once. Her arias include a nice tough-girl Chicago gang-related story about a sweater. Even funnier is her tale of an intense but ultimately successful bra fitting at the hands (quite literally) of an enthusiastic saleslady.

The third newcomer, Dania Ketcham, makes all her comic marks all right, but offers an interesting note of darker social comment in her intriguing monologue about choosing the right (if any) headwear for post-chemo baldness and what jewelry to wear in the OR to offset that unattractive hospital gown.

When not warning and interfering in the life of Gingy, Mitchell has a nice counter-cultural explanation of why she hates her purse—and almost all the proposed substitutes.

It is, of course, a show all about women and, let’s face it, it’s aimed at a primarily female clientele.  But you’ll enjoy it even if you check in with an x and a y chromosome. The opening night laughter was steady and sometimes extended, even from the men in the audience. But those quieter laughs tended to happen at moments in which hats or shoes or skirts or shirts or what have you were mainly the paraphernalia of struggles shared by humans of both sexes. The big explosions of mirth, it seemed to me, were laughter at something the laugher didn’t just recognize but had herself personally experienced.

She, like the five woman behind the footlights, knew what it was to struggle with a ma or with a bra.

Performances continue, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2, through June 12th.