It may already be laundered, folded, and put away, but the February 23rd staged reading of Love, Loss, and What I Wore at The Studio Around the Corner by the Brewster Cultural Arts Coalition is a show that should be shaken out and taken for a stroll for years to come.
Love, Loss, and What I Wore is a collection of stories and observations by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron, based on Ilene Beckerman’s eponymous memoir (written in her 60s as a gift to her grandchildren, later published along with four subsequent compilations), with contributions from eighteen women. The show is typically staged with Beckerman’s “Gingy” as the primary raconteur anchoring the piece, joined by four additional women to share, hold space, and interact with each other throughout the show.
In this production, Gingy’s voice was detached from the actress (Chris Jamison Matthews) who read her as simply another story. Matthews presents each piece’s title, including Gingy’s and the “Clotheslines”--a rapid fire stream of consciousness where each actress speaks on a topic such as Bras, Madonna, and the color Black--in lieu of a program, while each actress enters and exits to perform her piece. As in her memoir, selected Beckerman drawings of the various people and outfits that accent her memory are referred to throughout the program, and frame the actresses on a simple stage.
A staged reading in a small space with a larger-than-usual cast can be tricky. The women did not remain on stage, but popped on and off, at times rushing to hit their cued lines, or squeeze into their spots. The monologues were staged best when they had time and space to settle in, connect to the audience and each other, and tell the story. Impressive were the few who memorized bits of speeches and dialogue long enough to detach from the music stands holding the scripts, and be affected by each other. Especially adept at this was Beth Higgins Cornell, who always included her sister-cast with the audience in the “story-telling” vibe of the show, and genuinely connected to her material. “Brides” Jill Paxton and Stephanie Schleicher had individual monologues they performed with ease, and were extra appreciated for keeping in the moment of their shared piece by memorizing their vows in their marriage monologues. Actual weddings could take notes on their commitment to their commitment.
Brandi Gestri performed Geralyn Lucas’s story about breast cancer, bras, and tattoos of renewal with sweetness and a grounded optimism. Highest accolades to Jessica Benedict Vanacoro who had Nora Ephron’s essay “I Hate My Purse,” wherein she kept the audience engaged for pages with as natural a cadence as if it were her own anecdote.
This show is ripe for women of varying acting experiences to be a part of theatre and entertain a community. While some cast members were veterans of theatre in the Hudson Valley, others were new or nearly new to the acting craft, and were supported by the cast and director Christine DiTota in presenting this piece with joy. Dori Rohde-Venezia performed a difficult story about childhood entitlement and an adult’s regret, Amanda Bevacqua shared a piece a about a vivid period, and Beth Zucker reveled in her shoe-centric monologues. Brittany Carrasco is a familiar face behind the scenes at the Cultural Arts Coalition, and it was a true treat to see her hit the boards with such a natural feel for the pieces she performed.
DiTota directed this enthusiastic cast of women in performing the collection of stories and monologues with humor, hubris, and humanity. Like the “Little Black Dress,” Love, Loss, and What I Wore is a piece that may be worn by women from all walks of life with little to no alteration, and needs to be a staple in the CAC’s theatre repertoire to showcase the talent of the this theatrical community for more than one night.
If you would like to be involved in upcoming theatre events by the Cultural Arts Coalition at the Studio Around the Corner, visit them on the web at www.culturalartsco.com for audition information for the play "Over the River and Through the Woods" by Joe DiPietro, and the "I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying" Cabaret, featuring Broadway and Pop music’s most dramatic moments. To learn more about the CAC and upcoming events, contact them at Cultural Arts Coalition, 67 Main Street, Ste 101, Brewster, NY 10509, (845) 363-8330.