New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

"Love, Loss, and What I Wore"
Westside Theatre, Manhattan

There is no better example of Jewish talent and high visibility in today’s entertainment world than the remarkable Ephron family. Screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron produced four gifted daughters—Nora, Delia, Hallie, and Amy, all of whom grew up to be writers. Delia and Amy followed in their parents’ footsteps as screenwriters, and Hallie is a novelist who writes crime fiction. Undoubtedly best known is Nora, listed in her bio as a “film director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, journalist and blogger.” Her long list of films include such hits as “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Heartburn” and, most recently, “Julie and Julia.”

It is the Jewish touch once more making its mark on Hollywood. But Nora Ephron’s Jewishness emerges more as creative effort than as religious practice. As to her religion, she says dismissively, “Because you can never have too much butter, that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it.”

Currently the Ephron sisters (Nora and Delia) have joined forces to create a new  off-Broadway show called “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” Even the title (which has its own shock effect) reveals the inimical witty Ephron touch! The show is a collection of vignettes and monologues based on Ilene Beckerman’s book of the same name. But the Ephrons go beyond that, adding, by way of interviews, the recollections of friends and colleagues. All the material is woven into one piece, offered as a staged reading.

Now, under direction of Karen Carpenter, the show runs at the Westside Theatre. Five actresses, dressed in tasteful black outfits, sit on stools, reading from the script. It is all about clothes, clothes, clothes, but clothes as they relate to life’s critical moments. A rack of drawings depicting different outfits (rather like a file of museum posters) stands to the left, and are revealed page by page, as the reading progresses. Not surprising, the first sketched outfit is a Brownie uniform. But the monologues continue, with the fashion parade, through pre-pubescence, adolescence, dating, marriages, divorces, and other high and low moments. In typical Ephron style, it is also a sharp spoof of current mores. In an exchange between a Jewish mother and her daughter, the mother delivers words of wisdom: “Nice Jewish girls don’t get their ears pierced. Never wear white after Labor Day. Never wear velvet before Rosh Hashonah.”

Since no one is obligated to learn lines, the show permits a rotating cast, with notable actresses among them delivering their material effectively. On the afternoon this reviewer attended, Rosie O’Donnell and Tyne Daly lent their skills to the show, as did Samantha Bee, Katie Finnerean, and Natasha Lyonne. Initially, the piece appears to be frivolous, but the darker side is gradually revealed, creating a rich, varied, poignant view of today’s women. It is indeed, as it turns out, a revealing statement by women, for women, and about women.

-- Irene Backalenick
Oct. 6, 2009

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