Trying on 'Love, Loss' for size at the Broadway Playhouse

When you look back on pivotal life events — say, your marriage or misspent youth — you often find those memories come back through sensorial peripherals. You might remember the smell of a food served at a funeral, the tap of a kid's foot kicking the pews at your wedding, or the perfume of a divorce lawyer. The premise of the new show "Love, Loss and What I Wore," is that you will almost certainly remember that which you were wearing at the time.

That's assuming you are female. The male memory for past couture, this girls-night-out at least tacitly acknowledges, is as famously pathetic as the male capacity for apologizing for past mistakes.

But as penned by Nora and Delia Ephron from the book by Ilene Beckerman, "Love, Loss and What I Wore" is the kind of we-laugh-we-cry-we-cathart bonding session that certain recently decamped talk show hosts elevated to a very high level and that will, the producers hope, make an ideal end to, say, a day spent shopping with gal pals at the Water Tower Place mall, where the Broadway Playhouse is conveniently located at the rear.

Fair enough. In my book, finding some time in a day of buying stuff to think about the meaning of stuff in our lives and relationships is a very good idea. The premise is certainly sound — little gurgles of recognition are sprinkled throughout these 105 minutes of stage traffic directed by Karen Carpenter — and much of the writing here is very strong. Collectively, it's rather akin to a series of good "Talk of the Town" pieces in the New Yorker. A reasonably diverse array of female lives are here represented, but the preponderance of the material features women both urban and urbane.

Borrowing a page from "The Vagina Monologues" playbook, the Ephrons and their producer, the Broadway powerhouse Daryl Roth, have created an easy-in, easy-out structure wherein five women — the opening Chicago cast is Barbara Robertson, Nora Dunn, Felicia Fields, Katie O'Brien and, in a last-minute switcheroo, Roni Geva — sit at stools and read their stories from books on music stands. There is one through character, played by Robertson, whose several marriages and other rich experiences are interspersed with a variety of little personal histories contributed by other women, such as Shira Piven and Alex Witchel. The other four players essay numerous characters who tell of the need to look good in surgery (right on) or the horrors of being fitted for one's first brassiere, where the fitter takes all kinds of semi-public liberties with precious goods.

Some of this is so light and fluffy, it might fly away like a sale at Filene's. Which is not to say it's not funny; at one point, there is a droll takedown of the whole concept of the sleeveless turtleneck sweater ("Are you hot or are you cold?"). But the best moments are the deeper ones — the way clothes connect to our self-esteem and how they soak up the judgments of others like very expensive sponges.

At Sunday's opening, the Chicago incarnation of the show (which has been running in New York for two years with ever-changing celebrities) was not all it could or should be. It felt under-rehearsed and, at times, uncertain. Dunn, who can be hilariously funny in other circumstances, struggled to spit out the monologues right there in front of her. The stakes did not always rise as this material warrants, if its more emotional moments are to feel fully earned. This is Chicago. When it comes to truth and revelation, we're used to the real deal. This cast could deliver much more.

Robertson is the glue of the piece and honest throughout, and both of the younger players, Geva and O'Brien, are quirky and charming. Their elders, frankly, could take some lessons from their commitment. Even though everybody looked marvelous.


When: Through Dec. 4

Where: Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Tickets: $68-$78 at 800-775-2000 or

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.