Friday, October 21, 2011

'Love, Loss' and What a Bore -- Theatre Review

Theatre Review

Love, Loss, and What I Wore
by Nora & Delia Ephron
Broadway Playhouse, Chicago
Thru December 4

I think I can appreciate creativity, artistry and quality in almost any form, including fashion (even if I'm no Beau Brummell baby).

And I have seen and enjoyed theatrical performances of myriad types and topics, including many shows for which I'm not the target demographic.

So while it might seem my not caring much for--nor about, but as a consequence--Love, Loss, and What I Wore is due largely to my gender, I think that does a disservice to "non-wheelhouse" shows whose quality rises above pandering to a particular audience.

Yes, had Broadway in Chicago done the smart thing and offered subscribers a choice of Love, Loss... or Colin Quinn: Long Story Short--another show it presented at the Broadway Playhouse this fall, and one that skews more heavily toward men--I would have chosen the latter to be part of my series. (I saw Colin Quinn and enjoyed him far more than Love, Loss..., but had to buy a $40 a la carte ticket.)

And no, I don't have the emotional attachment to clothing that Love, Loss, and What I Wore purports to be universal among women. But great theater--whether a musical, drama, comedy or five seated ladies reading from binders, as was the case here--should rise above the confines of its subject matter to hold some appeal for all audiences.

In fact, despite a lack of passion for fashion and almost no recall of specific clothes I wore on a given occasion--other than topical ties or a Springsteen concert t-shirt to a subsequent show--I get what the Ephron sisters are trying to evoke in their "play" based on a 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman.

With a greater feeling of authenticity, more insightful humor or even more poignant nostalgia, Love, Loss... could have been much more winning. But despite the writing talents of the Ephron sisters--Nora penned When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, which she also directed, and Delia also has a number of film credits--the whole affair comes across as rather facile and obvious.

I understand why the show needs to be scripted rather than ad libbed, but I would much rather have heard the ladies onstage--including the superb Chicago actresses Barbara Robertson & Felicia Fields and Saturday Night Live vet Nora Dunn--speak honestly about what certain clothes and related experiences have meant to them, rather than reciting canned stories that lack spark or much heart.

Sure, some of the anecdotes that involved childhood, death or illness couldn't help but be moving, and some observations were sufficiently funny, but for the most part, Love, Loss, and What I Wore didn't just seem ill-fitting; rather, the whole fabric of the felt-much-longer-than-90-minute show is poorly designed.

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