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O’Connell and Company stages emotional, engaging play

“Love, Loss and What I Wore” is a theatrical narrative in the vein of “Sex and the City” or “Girls,” except everyone keeps her clothes on and we never see the guys, we just hear about them.

There’s sex talk, and mother talk, and wife and ex-wife and more ex-wife talk, and it all centers on what the women were wearing, rather than what they weren’t.

This kind of show is made for intimate stages like the one in the Park School theater, where it is being presented by O’Connell & Company through June 7.

A couple of years ago, Buffalo United Artists also had a winning production of the show in its now-demolished little theater on Chippewa Street.

What “Love, Loss” is aiming for, and what it delivers, are lots of laughs, some sighs of recognition and a few tender tugs on the heart. No wonder – it was written by Nora and Delia Ephron, who in their film and stage work have captured the experiences of the generations of women who straddled both sides of feminism or who came of age along with it. These are women who still dress for the occasion, whatever it is, while not feeling responsible for doing all the dishes.

The stories are from the book of the same title by Ilene Beckerman, adapted for the off-Broadway stage by the Ephrons. It is theater for people who like to go to shows for the human touch, not for the Tony Award-winning spectacle or the maxed-out star rating.

The characters tell their vignettes through their clothing, stories of hope and anger, pain and pure joy.

There’s the gang sweater that gave the girl a chance to make out with the gang leader, and then be dumped.

The mono-boob athletic bra story, and the dressing room drama and childhood leggings that needed suspenders.

One sobering story is about high boots and miniskirts, and of having a college room broken into, and being raped, and getting rid of the skirts forever. But keeping the boots.

There are the universal complaints: jumpsuits. How do you go to the bathroom? Sleeveless turtlenecks. Are you hot or are you cold? And, sorry, but any woman who wears Eileen Fisher might as well just give up. (Eileen Fisher gets her own back in the end.)

Director Roger Paolini achieves a steady emotional balance with his talented group of five actresses. Darleen Pickering Hummert is the Beckerman of the bunch, handling the easel of drawings showing what she wore from Brownies through meeting all her husbands and more. Hummert mixes the sweetness of memory with tart appraisals of how it all turned out, or, as it happened, how things didn’t turn out.

Sandra Gilliam and Mary Moebius hold the center of the stage, moving between characters in prom dresses and mastectomy bras and lesbian wedding attire with descriptions vivid enough to envision the outfits and their meanings.

Melissa Leventhal, the youngest actress on the stage, also is the most energetic, kicking her legs and practically jumping off her seat when deciding to go with comfortable flats instead of back-breaking high heels, only to go back again to the heels because nothing else makes her legs and her self feel like those sexy, sexy things.

Almost all the stories are engaging. A quick piece about everyone dressing like Madonna seems dated, but the “When did we all start wearing black?” conversation will, like black, never go out of style.

Topping the individual performances is Mary Kate O’Connell presenting an attack on the purse so well calculated Gen. Patton would be proud. You get the sense that she didn’t only rehearse this monologue, she has lived it.

The show is a fast 90 minutes, with the serious and sweet monologues peppered with a theatrical version of listicles on getting the first bra, marrying the wrong man, and being fat.

Women will love it and guys will like it, too. At least they will come away knowing what to say to a woman. And when it isn’t really about the dress.

email: mmiller@buffnews.com

REVIEW

3 stars

What: “Love, Loss and What I Wore”

Where: O’Connell & Company, The Park School of Buffalo, 4625 Harlem Road

When: Through June 1

Tickets: $14-$25

Info: oconnellandcompany.com

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