mary walsh, louise pitre, andrea martin,
paula brancati, sharron matthews
If you are the type of person for whom spending the afternoon shopping with your mom or your best friends, stopping for a late lunch somewhere that serves mimosas before catching the Sex and the City movie and then finally snuggling down with the newest Sophie Kinsella novel sounds like the perfect day, you will fall in love with Love, Loss and What I Wore, produced by Michael Rubinoff in association with Daryl Roth, playing at the Panasonic Theatre until September 4th, 2010. And, even though the thought of fitting rooms, the endless Carrie and Big debacle and slogging through Shopaholic Takes Manhattan makes my stomach churn, I really, genuinely and actually, enjoyed myself too.
Love, Loss and What I Wore is based on a pictorial autobiography written by Ilene Beckerman, who used her own drawings of clothing she or her family members or friends had owned as a launching pad for the memories of the defining moments in her life. The book was adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron, whose combined credits include the screenplays for When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie & Julia and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The play branches out beyond Beckerman and uses a cast of five actors to share monologues and vignettes from the perspectives of a plethora of different women.
The magic component of this play is its cast. If you raided the closets of Paula Brancati, Andrea Martin, Sharron Matthews, Louise Pitre and Mary Walsh you would find an entire bucket load of distinguished awards from a Tony, Emmy, Drama Desk, New York Theatre Award, a collection of Doras and Geminis, at least one Harold and a conglomeration of others. Louise Pitre plays the character based on Beckerman, and she is accompanied by an array of corresponding drawings, which provides the audience a visual aid for her stories. Although the play isn’t really constructed as so, Pitre, captivating and conversational, acts almost like the narrator of the piece as it is her that pulls the audience ardently into the world of the play. She is firmly anchored in confidence and dignity and this informs the story she is telling about growing up in New York throughout the 1950s and 60s and her subsequent love affairs. The only moment that requires a stretch of the imagination is when the utterly stunning Pitre, (who is in better shape than most people in show business) is speaking about the adverse effects of aging as she embraces becoming a grandmother. Have you SEEN Louise Pitre’s arms?! I rest my case.
Mary Walsh is, of course, very funny and she shines particularly bright in an unexpected story told from the perspective of a state senator and a hilarious horror story about a first bra fitting. She also has a beautiful poignant turn as a young cancer survivor speaking about mastectomies and baseball caps. Paula Brancati has a nice brass, youthful sassiness for much of the play, which I really enjoyed, but she also reveals a more vulnerable side in a story centering on one girl’s love for boots. Her quick switch between vivacious and serious seemed a tad bit forced, but will likely settle as the run goes on. My favourite of Brancati’s roles was as a girl searching for the perfect attire for her wedding day, whose experience was mirrored beautifully by Sharron Matthews, who was utterly mesmerizing and so touching speaking about her and her mother’s quest for her wedding dress. The moment when these two stories melded together was the loveliest moment in the play. Matthews also gave a very vulnerable performance as a middle sister with self esteem issues who finally uses her beloved cowboy boots to kick her loser boyfriend to the curb.
Andrea Martin, former star of SCTV, Tony Award winner for My Favourite Year on Broadway along with a slew of other credits each one more impressive than the next, is a formidable, exquisite performer and it is truly thrilling, inspiring and gratifying to see her onstage in Toronto. Martin slays the audience with a deflective, wistful saga about a lost shirt that she swears has nothing to do with the collapse of her last relationship and she brings down the house with a monologue about a Grace Kelly Hermes bag, which spirals into a rant about the uselessness of purses, which, honestly, is worth the price of admission. The subject matter is simultaneously inane, absurd and familiar, but her performance left me utterly awestruck and reaffirmed for me that I was in the presence of bona fide comic genius. Kapow.
Karen Carpenter directs the piece, which has all five of the actors sitting on stools, their scripts on music stands, although they rarely refer to them, which may create a more informal ambiance for the audience, but I would be interested in seeing what could happen with the same script and some more inspired staging.
In all, Love, Loss and What I Wore touches on a wide array of issues that surround society’s conception of femininity since the 1950s without investigating or commenting critically or analytically on anything. Yet, despite its superficiality, it is not so shallow that I, academic feminist that I am, found it insulting or aggravating. It is obviously intended to be a fun, summer play that can be enjoyed as part of an afternoon of pedicures and shoe sales, but it also includes performances that may stay with you for the rest of your lives.
Andrea Martin. Louise Pitre. Sharron Matthews. Mary Walsh. Paula Brancati: Go see them, or you might get polio.
Love, Loss and What I Wore is playing at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street) until September 4th, 2010. It is being presented in two parts with two different casts. This cast appears in the show until August 7th, 2010. The next cast is comprised of Lauren Collins, Wendy Crewson, Cynthia Dale and Margot Kidder. For more information, or to book your tickets please call 416.872.1212 or go online to www.ticketking.com or www.lovelossonstage.ca.