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LA Theater Review

Love, Loss and What I Wore

Five women dressed in black seated onstage read short stories from podiums about a topic that relates intimately to the feminine experience. On that description alone, Nora and Delia Ephron's 100-minute staged reading, directed by Jenny Sullivan, will be compared to Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." And even though the latter exudes a greater sense of gravitas through its global issues, the former may connect more closely to the female audience through its commonplace anecdotes, and it may alienate male audiences less, particularly men who have held the bags at the mall for a woman trying on dozens of clothes. Authorship of this piece is a bit muddled. Parts are based on Ilene Beckerman's book of the same title, and several women are thanked for sharing stories but not given specific writing credit. But regardless of who wrote what, there's a healthy dose of humor mixed with a few touching tales, delivered with energy and honesty by a talented veteran cast.

The only visual elements, besides Lap Chi Chu's subtle lighting design, are a series of drawings of women in dresses that accompany the multipart "Gingy's Story," which is the only story read by Carol Kane. The other cast members—Caroline Aaron, Tracee Ellis Ross, Rita Wilson, and original Off-Broadway cast member Natasha Lyonne—take turns with more than 15 pieces, as well as a few "Clothesline" segments, which are a barrage of one-liners on topics such as "The Bra" and "The Closet." Clothes are the bonding element, but they tend to serve as the jumping-off point for the bigger themes of falling in and out of love, familial relationships, and death. The somber standout is "The Bathrobe," written by Rosie O'Donnell and performed by Wilson, about memories associated with a bathrobe worn by O'Donnell's mother who died when O'Donnell was young. The funniest piece, gregariously performed by Aaron, is "I Hate My Purse."

Sullivan has the cast occasionally act out bits of dialogue, which adds a sense of theatricality to the reading, and breaking up "Gingy's Story" adds cohesion to the evening. Even the weakest stories have interesting elements, and performed by this cast, they are engaging and entertaining.

Presented by the Geffen Playhouse at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, 10866 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. May 13–July 4. Tue.–Fri, 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. (310) 208-5454.

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