Although it is written by women, directed by a woman and stars five women, "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" is not just for women. Men will laugh, too, and also could pick up some clues to cracking the code on how women -- all kinds of women -- think.
The show is a series of stories and vignettes, many inspired by items of clothing, read by five actresses seated in a row across the stage. Consider it more a performance than a play, a sort of defanged "Vagina Monologues" -- there's more fashion and humor, a lot less anger and almost no vaginas.
That does make the show, playing at Buffalo United Artists' intimate theater downtown through June 2, less political and less controversial, but not less entertaining. Nora Ephron and her sister Delia Ephron adapted Ilene Beckerman's book for the stage, and they play it for many more laughs than tears. Joy Scime gets things started -- and drops in throughout the evening. She's an older woman reflecting on drawings of outfits from her life, such as being told to wear her leggings or she would get polio ("You have no idea how many ways you could get polio"), and a silver fox stole that her practical mother could never bring herself to wear.
Kelli Bocock-Natale embraces many of the "big girl" stories and squeezes every last drop of comedy and pathos from them, but she really sparkles in the tale about the purse as a problem, which she takes all the way to a surprisingly perfect solution.
Throughout the show (which is performed with no intermission), Kerrykate Abel holds her perch on one side of the stage looking exactly like that friend you seek out at parties because you just know she will have the sharpest take on everyone there. When did we all start wearing black, she wonders? (The cast -- also including Caitlin Coleman and Loraine O'Donnell -- is indeed all in black.) And, she continues, why don't we just stop pretending that anything else is going to be "the new black?"
"Sometimes I buy something that isn't black," she says, almost hopefully, "and I put it on, and I am so sorry!"
Other tales are less about the wardrobe. Coleman and O'Donnell have a touching give and take as two women planning weddings, and the very different reactions they are getting from their mothers. It turns out, they are marrying one another.
Scime has an ongoing riff as a much-married woman who seems to come through her nuptials more wise than wounded. ("He said, 'It's not what you think.' It was exactly what I thought.")
With little movement on stage, other than card flipping to show some drawings, it is hard to see the hand of director Jessica K. Rasp, but it is there. She knows her performers well enough to let them run with the script, and she knows that the space allows them to make the most of even tiny gestures that might be lost in a larger venue.
The actors all display excellent timing, and relate to each other like lifelong friends. And, while the Ephrons do sometimes lean on their almost vaudevillian sense of comic repartee, which does remind us we're in a theater, at the end, everyone seems to know each other a little better. In a good way.
"Love, Loss, and What I Wore"
3 stars (out of 4)
WHEN: Through June 2
WHERE: Buffalo United Artists, 119 Chippewa St.
TICKETS: $25 general, $22 seniors, $15 students
INFO: 886-9239 or www.buffalobua.org