The Memory of Fashion

The pair of jeans I wore when I went roller skating and met the worst mistake of my life…the black suit that I have worn to every funeral since I was 25…the denim jumper I wore when I got my ears pierced at the age of 12…the navy blue straight leg silk pants with embroidered baby’s breath flowers I wore on my first overnight date with the man that taught me what true love really meant… all articles of clothing cloaked in memories.  It is true that women cling to the clothing they wore as events fill the chapters in the books of our lives, after all what’s a story without the accessories that give it vivid detail.  This notion is brilliantly and hilariously explored in the off-Broadway production of Love, Loss and What I Wore playing at The Westside Theatre.

 

Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron

Based on the best-selling book by Ilene Beckerman (and adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron) Love, Loss and What I Wore is a collection of stories performed by an all-star rotating cast that has included Rhea Perlman, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson and Tracee Ellis Ross.  Each cast performs in four week intervals.  The March cast stars Didi Conn, Fran Drescher, Jayne Houdyshell, Carol Kane and Natasha Lyonne. The play starts and ends with Gingy’s Story with other narratives woven in between.  The cast, dressed in black, sit and deliver the monologues. The set is a tapestry of dresses changing in color. 

March Cast

The play covers the full gamut of emotions from a fashionable perspective.  At times I was bursting with laughter and at others I found myself fending off the lump forming in my throat.  It even covers topics like the frenzy women experience when trying on outfits in the dressing room, the obsession with being fat or thin, the hell women put their feet through for a pair of sexy stilettos, all topics that drive women schizophrenic.   Other stories are more personal like Boots, an anecdote about neglect, even fashion icon Madonna was paid homage.

Beautiful, touching and filled with humor Love, Loss and What I Wore intimately tell tales that any woman can relate to and provide a little insight into a woman’s mind for the men sitting in the audience.  In fact, my greatest confirmation that this play is a must see was provided by the man that accompanied me.  This is a man that I thought had the inside track on women, but to my surprise he left the theater enlightened.  Mental note, the plum dress and limited edition patchwork Timberlands I wore when I helped a man from Mars learn more about the planet Venus.  A new memory has been created.

Photos:  Carol Rosegg courtesy of O&M Co.

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Love Is In the Air

With all the leftover Valentine’s Day cards, candy and stuffed animals littering the shelves at Duane Reade and Walgreens, the remnants of the world’s biggest day of manufactured adoration is still lingering in the city, but are special shared menus, boxes of chocolate and Hallmark cards true representations of love?  Love is more than corporate displays of affection.  Last Friday, I attended the opening performance of “all about love”, an off-Broadway production at the Paradise Factory Theater. 

Donysha Smith

“all about love” is an engaging and truthful exploration of love and its many facets.  Written by Donysha Smith, who is also making her directorial debut, “all about love” is a wonderful reflection of a lifetime labor.  “I used to put on plays at three-years-old.  I used to put the tablecloth around my neck and become a different character and perform for my family and extended family at cookouts,” she says.  Smith is a Philadelphia born playwright, producer and actress.  She earned a B.F.A in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.  She has held several roles in NYC Theater, Media and Fashion.   “This is all I ever wanted to do my entire life and I’m finally at a place in my life where it’s like this is what I’m going to do,” Donysha adds.

Wesley Voley, Zdenko Slobodnik and Aubyn Peterson

“all about love” is a tapestry that combines three perspectives of love.  The first, Three Point Stance at the Edge of the World, journeys into the psyche of soldiers living for the love they receive through letters from family and lovers at home.  Zdenko Slobodnik, an Iraq War soldier, and Wesley Voley, a Union soldier during the Civil War, provide a harsh glimpse into the alienation, somber, stressful and loveless existence that a soldier during wartime endures.  Sometimes love is a desperate thing.  Through Slobodnik’s and Voley’s narration of the letters they send home the audience can feel  their desperation and frustration to get home, back to the people they love.  The choreography in this scene is sharp and aggressive and compliments the performances given by these two actors.

Bianca Lemaire and Erickson Dautruche

The second, Carmelita 1:13, provides a modern “Thorn Birds” look at love.  The scene involves a young couple in the throws of a break up.  Carmelita’s love for the lord is driving a wedge between her relationship and is pushing her and her man to the brink of insanity.  When falling in and out of love, one can sometimes forget how another person’s upbringing and religious beliefs can affect their views on love.  Carmelita 1:13 is a poignant observation of a relationship from the other side of the spectrum.  As the characters played by Bianca Lemaire and Erickson Dautruche share memories while also expressing anger and confusion, the audience is reminded of how a breakup is just as multi-dimensional as a relationship and sometimes people must break apart in order to find their way back to each other.

Jeff Kozel and Warren Katz

After a brief intermission, the audience is treated to an amusing display of Casual Addictions and Lost & Found, the third and final scene.  Lost and Found is a touching story about acceptance and unconditional love.  While shopping for a family dinner, an elderly gay couple comes to grips with failed past relationships, a disapproving daughter and dementia.  As the scene ends, they learn the only way to move forward is with love, and a dance doesn’t hurt either.  Jeff Kozel, Warren Katz and Aubyn Peterson are extremely convincing and moved me to the brink of tears.

Aiding in the transition of the scenes are video interludes and the music of Stevie Wonder. “I think that Stevie’s music is hopeful, it’s honest [and] it is resonant,” Donysha explains about the use of Stevie Wonder’s music in the show, “He’s one of those artists that everybody loves.  Everyone knows a Stevie Wonder song.  No matter what their age, class [or] race, everybody can hear one of his songs and is like that is my jam.”  The video contains footage of New Yorkers talking about their perception of love and their experience with it, and creates a love letter to New Yorkers in general.

 A percentage of ticket sales from “all about love” will go to the Fistula Foundation, www.fistulafoundation.org.   The Fistula Foundation a nonprofit corporation dedicated to raising awareness of and funding for fistula treatment, prevention and educational programs worldwide. 

“all about love” will be playing at the Paradise Factory Theater until February 21. I suggest all FAMERS get a dose of love before this productions ends. 

To purchase tickets for “all about love”, please visit www.allaboutloveshow.com.

Photos courtesy of D. Austin