by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
ABET has opened a delightful comedy/drama LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE. The play is about memories of the past that are recalled as nine women remember the clothing they wore at significant points in their lives. It will be on stage at 716 Ocean Blvd in Atlantic Beach, Florida until November 9. Call (904) 249-7177 for reservations and information or visit www.abettheatre.com.
Author Ilene Beckerman wrote an autobiographical illustrated book of the same name. The book explored humorous and stressful times in the author’s life, and related memories of the clothing she wore during these times. Nora and Delia Ephron created a play based on the book and added some personal stories of their own.
The play has been very successful all over the country and had an extended run in the New York area. Jacksonville audiences are extremely fortunate with ABET’s production, as it is far more fully and imaginatively staged than most previous productions. In New York and other cities, it was done as reader’s theatre, with the actresses sitting in chairs in front of stands, using scripts. Under the insightful direction of CARYL BUTTERLY, the ladies have memorized and rehearsed their lines and use interesting stage movements to enhance the their stories. And while other productions had only five performers, Ms. Butterly, realizing we have a wealth of women with acting talent in this area, has expanded the cast to nine talented ladies, who could scarcely be surpassed individually but are even more remarkable together.
Their storytelling is presented in a series of monologues or scenes, numbering seventeen in Act I and eleven in Act ll. Each scene has a title that is announced before it is begun; such titles as “The Bra,” “The Paper Dress,” “Shoes,” and ”The Bathrobe,” to name a new. We looked at our watches at the end of Act I, and could not believe an entire hour had passed, as the play was enthralling and beautifully paced.
Of the nine ladies, only one has a name, Gingy (PAM LARSON) represents the author and is the narrator of the events of her life and that of the others present. While the preview audience laughed a lot (including all the men in attendance) at most of the scenes, several scenes concerned serious episodes in life, like breast cancer, rape, the death of a child, and divorce. Of course, the real test of a play is what you feel about the characters, and for us they glowed with intelligence and warmth.
The set was simple; a rose-pink background, one black bench in the center, with three high black stools on either side, and the cast moving between them as they came performed their lines. Gingy had her own space on the left of the stage, where she displays drawings of the various garments she remembers as she takes us on the journey of her life. (Lots of marriages, lots of humor). All wore black clothing, either dresses or slacks in styles that suited their personalities.
Since it has been done as reader’s theatre in other cities, it has attracted some female star power, probably because cast members could appear as guests with very little rehearsal time required. Stars who have appeared in this show include Dawn Wells, Loretta Swit, and Tyne Daly.
BRYAN FRANK as Light Designer created the ever-changing illuminations that highlighted each performer. LAURA YOUNG as Stage Manager was assisted by OLIVIA TILLOTSON, who also was the light board operator.
The stellar cast includes: JUDY GOULD, PAM LARSON, JENNIFER LATKA, MAGGIE MARTIN, MAGGIE WINSTEAD O’CONNOR, PEG PASCHAL, TONI PHILIPS, KATE POWELL, AND AMY TILLOTSON.
The production is a great example of the power of meaningful plays in small intimate spaces. For men, it is a interesting lesson on what clothes mean to our ladies; for women, well they love it, as after all, it highlights one of their favorite subjects. Clothes that is.
It was a pleasure to be a captive audience for two galvanizing hours. Don’t miss it.
LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM