By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
With a title like Love, Loss and What I Wore, this show, a Girls’ Night Out if ever was one, requires a wardrobe decision: what to wear? Basic black? Slouchy trousers? Skinny pants? If you want to know what I wore (and you probably don’t) I decided finally on a frilly flowered frock with flowered flats (accessorized with lots of alliteration). Summery. Girly. Like the show. (Now there’s a concept: dress for theatrical genre.)
Philadelphia Theatre Company is hosting this add-on to their regular season, a long-running off-Broadway hit by Nora and Delia Ephron. The cast, Mary Birdsong, Aisha de Haas, Kate Flannery, Ashley Austin Morris, and Concetta Tomei sit on tall chairs and tell stories from scripts on stands in front of them (they sometimes, with the comfort of scripts, seemed under-rehearsed).
The stories are based on Ilene Beckeman’s book and are about dresses and shoes and purses and losing weight and gaining weight and falling in love and mothers and stepmothers and grandmothers and sisters and proms and first bras (“28AA—tiny, but not tiny enough”). The idea is that women associate important events and people in their lives with the clothes they wore.
There is much charm here, although some of the acting is too broad and many of the stories lack subtlety and go on longer than they need to. Of the many scenes and stories, eliciting nostalgic, knowing laughter from the audience, two seem misplaced: a blatant political message about same-sex marriage and the inevitable breast-cancer story.
Standouts in this highly credentialed cast are Ashley Austin Morris, with her quirky voice and expressive face (and killer heels!) whose paper dress story is terrific, and Aisha de Haas with her natural, girlfriendly delivery, assuring us of what we already know: once you’re wearing Eileen Fisher, it’s over.
And I ask you: what ever happened to my poodle skirt?