Review: ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ at the Montgomery Playhouse

The Montgomery Playhouse presents an intimate, funny, and moving night of theater through its production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore. The award-winning play, first produced in 2009 and the second longest-running show in New York’s off-Broadway Westside Theatre, was written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron and is based on the memoir by Ilene Beckerman.

Through a series of touching and humorous vignettes and monologues, the seven actresses–skillfully directed by Kryss Lacovaro–share their characters’ stories, exploring themes of relationships, oppression and sexuality (particularly relevant in this era of the “Me Too Movement”), loss of loved ones, divorce, and the fullness of life through the metaphor of the characters’ love/hate relationship with clothes.

Meghan Williams Elkins as Gingy in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Photo by David Jones.
Meghan Williams Elkins as Gingy in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Photo by David Jones.

The show opens with Gingy, played with an instantly endearing warmth by professionally trained actress and theater veteran Meghan Williams Elkins, leafing through her notebook, filled with sketches of memorable wardrobe items from various stages of her life. These sketches are creatively displayed via projections onto the screen hung upstage as visible memories anchoring Gingy’s reminiscences (the artwork was done by Meghan Williams Elkins herself). Gingy’s story is woven into the fabric of the play, as we return to Gingy retelling her life’s story–highlighted by reference to her most memorable fashions–throughout the production.

The simple set design (by David Jones) and lighting (designed by Steve Deming), added appropriate hues to the characters’ often colorful tales. Located in the “found” black box theater space at Gaithersburg’s CoMMotion Fitness (the result of the itinerant Montgomery Playhouse’s ongoing struggle to secure space in which to hold its productions), the set created the perfect immersive atmosphere, with the audience sometimes separated from the actors by only a few feet. As a result, the audience felt spoken to directly, as though we were in the room with these characters as they shared their stories, responding genuinely and spontaneously. One audience member even shouted, “What?!” at one character’s memory of an astronomically high price tag for a purse.

Director Lacovaro’s choice to allow movement for her actors (the play is traditionally presented with actors seated on stools), helped enhance the stories, particularly the vignettes, and enabled a seamless transition from story to story. The actors’ capable performances made each scene both poignant and immensely relatable. In fact, this audience member was glad her husband, seated beside her, witnessed first-hand the female struggle of the department store dressing room experience (“See,” I told him, “it’s not just me!”). The script is deftly touching and peppered with humorous truisms instantly familiar to any female audience member (“Sometimes I buy something that isn’t black, and I put it on and I am so sorry”) and interactions relatable to mothers and daughters alike, (“Is that what you’re wearing?”), delivered with comedy and charm by the talented cast.

L to R - Naomi Ratz, Leena S. Dev, Lisa Lorraine Holland, and Cassandra Redding in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Photo by David Jones.
L-R: Naomi Ratz, Leena S. Dev, Lisa Lorraine Holland, and Cassandra Redding in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Photo by David Jones.

With the exception of Meghan Williams Elkins, the actors each play a variety of characters, nimbly transitioning between ages, accents, and attitudes. Each actor comes to her role with a wealth of depth and experience. Cassandra Redding, a professional actor and puppeteer, has been in several MPH productions. Elizabeth Weiss, also a seasoned actor, returns to MPH after first performing with the theater company at the age of 12. Leena S. Dev returns in her third production with MPH (she’s a pediatrician in her “real life”). Diana Hutter is also a theater veteran returning to MPH. Lisa Lorraine Holland is also a professionally trained actress who has performed in productions across the globe and returns to MPH in this performance. Naomi Ratz joins MPH after performing in and directing several recent productions.

The Montgomery Playhouse, the oldest continuously performing community theater in the Washington Metro area and the second oldest in the state of Maryland, is set to celebrate its 90th anniversary in May of 2019. With the talents and experience of longtime MPH production team members, David Jones (who serves as Producer, Set and Theater Designer, Set Construction and Painting, Program Art Designer, and Photographer), Bruce Hirsh (Stage Manager, Sound Designer, and Sound Technician), Lighting Designer Steve Deming, Lighting Technician Mark Shullenbarger, and Assistant Director David Dossey, Director Kryss Lacovaro delivers a moving production, made poignant and unforgettable by the stellar performances of seven talented actresses, who bring their characters’ stories to life.

Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore plays through May 6, 2018, at CoMMotion Fitness, 13220 Wisteria Drive, Germantown, MD. To purchase tickets, go online.