WHAT I WORE
Is an ingenious witty comedy
By Iride Aparicio
SAN JOSÉ, CALIFORNIA -- Those who like comedies that really make them laugh, will enjoy the West Coast premiere of LOVE, LOSS and WHAT I WORE, that is being presented by San José Repertory Theatre until July 28. “I am thrilled to present this show that weaves emotions out of fabric and fashion into the female narrative as told through five on-stag actresses recanting their life experiences through their wardrobe’ said San Jose Rep’s Artistic director Rich Lombardo. He should be thrilled, this show is great.
Described in the program as “an intimate collection of stories” the work is based on the book by ILENE BECKERMAN. The play, written by NORA and DELIA EPHRON, is represented by five women, dressed in black dresses, sitting on a row on the stage who, associate each dress with a past memory and talk aboutthe things that women do when selecting dresses, shopping for a new dress, or wearing a dress, using simple language, but in this work the actresses do it with such conviction that they make the ordinary every day happenings that they are talking about, funny. So funny indeed, that they keep us laughing.
One of the reasons why this play succeeds, is because its humor is clean and most jokes are directed to themselves by the performers. But the main reason, is that with actresses like ASHLEY AUSTIN MORRIS from the TV show “Ugly Betty” DAWN WELLS, who played Mary Ann in “Gilligan’s Island”, DEE HOTY from the musical “Mamma Mia, and the show "Smash," ZUZANNA SZADKOWSKI from “Gossip Girl” and SANDRA TSING LOH from NPR’s “The Loh Down on Science,” the acting is superb. The direction of KAREN CARPENTER adds to the work’s quality.
The format of this particular play is creative. Five women sitting in a row of chairs on an empty stage talking about different themes. All of the themes they talk about are related to the dresses they wore on a particular day, or a dress they bought, or simply the style or the color of a dress.
Because it is a dress-oriented show, the props in the play are the “dresses” or should we say pictures of dresses, painted in rectangular cardboards hanging (like dresses) from a rack located on stage. As a "dress" is mentioned by an actress, it is placed infront of the others (by a stage hand) and a large proyection of the dress appears on the large screen located back stage. As we look at the dress, the stories begin.
The “memories” are divided in categories, for example “Leggings.” When the theme's name appears on the screen, each of the five women tell the audience her particular experience when wearing “leggings.” Their "stories" are really short soliloquies that require from the actor the type of acting that looks as natural as a person talking. Each one of the five actress is a master on the style.
Most of the “experiences” they tell the audience are ingenious, and they are told so vividly by the actresses that the audience laugh because they almost could picture each one of their experiences happening, in their own minds. Some of the experiences revealed are sad, MORRIS, for example told the audience a very touching story in which her step-mother went through her closet, without her permission, and gave away her favorite dress. For days she was looking for her dress and it was not until one day, when in school, she saw a girl wearing her dress, that she discovered that her step mother had given her dress to their maid’s daughter. The most moving sad story that night, however, and the most dramatic was the one told by TSING LOH (pictured above) about the death of her mother.
Some of the stories are told with skits and some of the "skits" use dialogue, with one of the actresses playing the part of the child and another playing the part of her mother, or playing sisters or friends talking with each other. We loved the skit of What Mothers tell their Daughters: “You should never wear white after this month (any moth she selects) or “you look adorable on that” when it is obvious that the daughter just hates the dress she is wearing, or “you are not wearing that!” when the daughter just feels glamorous wearing a tight dress that makes her look like a sausage because it is three sizes smaller than her true size. And the reason we laughed when we hear those words, was because, in our mind, we recognized our mother’s “voice” saying exactly the same thing to us. We also laughed when the “topic” selected was “The Closet” because we remember ourselves as young girls staring at our closet full of dressy dresses before going to a party, and telling our own mother with dismay “I have nothing to wear."
If not for men, who that night missed many of the “jokes” because as young men they seldom went to try clothes with their mothers, or experienced the trauma of finding in the lingerie department the most beautiful fancy lace bra in, size D, that you have seen in your life and discovering, after trying it on, that at fifteen you are too flat to fill it. . LOVE, LOSS and WHAT I WORE is highly entertaining, one of those rare shows that allows the audience to relax at the theatre and enjoy it.
LOVE, LOSS and WHAT I WORE will play at San Jose Rep until July 28. To order tickets call at 1-408-367-7255 or go to www.SJRep.com