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Five sizes fit all – ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’

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Five sizes fit all – ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ (Photo courtesy of Winterport Open Stage)

Clothes make the woman in Winterport Open Stage production

WINTERPORT – Clothes make the woman in the latest production from Winterport Open Stage.

For their latest offering, WOS presents “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” directed by Dominick Varney and adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron from the Ilene Beckerman book of the same name. The show – a mediation on the lives of women as reflected through their relationships with their wardrobes – runs through Nov. 5 on Winterport’s Samuel Wagner Middle School stage.

A cast of five women – Brianne Beck, Jenny Hart, Jeri Misler, Rebeckah Kay Perry and Collette Sabbagh – breathes life into these narratives, filling them with joy and pathos and energy until they’re bursting at the seams.

The show’s foundation is the life of a woman known as “Gingy,” played by Misler. It is Gingy’s story that we follow, from her youthful crushes to some of her less-than-stellar romantic choices to her settling into a matronly contentment – all of it defined by way of her clothing. As she brings picture after picture of various and sundry outfits to our attention, her wardrobe selections serve as a sort of pictorial road map through the stages of her life.

It's not all about Gingy, however. And every one of these women takes her turn in the spotlight, bringing forth these heartfelt and hilarious stories about what they wear on their backs and what they bear in their hearts. Accents and attitudes abound as these talented performers dish out the sweetness and the sharpness with equal aplomb.

A lot of these stories are funny. In fact, most of them are. There’s the extended saga of one young woman’s gang sweater and the complicated relationship she has with it. There’s a hilarious tale with regards to dueling prom dresses and another about the dilemma of high heels. And the one about the conjugal visits, well … best if I leave that one to the imagination. All that plus some delightful shared interludes where we get walked through dressing room anxiety, dressing like Madonna, dressing in black … and dressing in ways that your mother doesn’t really approve of.

But it is when these stories allow themselves to delve into deeper feelings that “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” is at its most impactful. These women talk about the ordeals inherent to breast cancer and the realities of rape’s aftermath. They drop their guards and expose their emotional vulnerabilities. They dig deep into what it means to love and to lose.

There are few artists out there whose names are more synonymous with romantic comedy than Nora Ephron. The writer and/or director of such genre classics as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail” and a multitude of others demonstrated a mastery of the rom-com as proficient as anyone working in Hollywood.

That mastery made her - along with frequent collaborator (and sister) Delia – a logical choice to adapt Beckerman’s 1995 book. However, the choice of medium was a bit of a departure for the Ephrons – a stage script rather than a screenplay.

While this particular production is technically a staged reading, calling it that does it a bit of a disservice. Yes, there are scripts onstage sitting atop the standard-issue black music stands that spring to mind anytime you hear the term “staged reading.” But while the cast does spend most of their time seated on stools and dressed in basic black, with minimal movement consisting mostly of standing and sitting back down, there’s nothing static about it. The stories being told crackle with an energetic honesty; the performers engage and entrance the audience with nothing more than the words on the page and their presence on the stage.

It is more than enough.

Varney has assembled a first-rate ensemble; this is one talented group. The quintet shares the stage with comfortable ease – each woman finds space in which to spread wide their story, capturing the breadth and nuance of each individual moment while also bringing them together in the service of the overarching narrative.

Each performer has highlights big and small; the monologues are the primary set pieces, but there’s a lot of joy to be mined from the rapid-fire shared moments that serve almost as interstitials between the larger narratives. Timing – comedic and dramatic alike - is key to the success of a piece such as this one; this group’s pace is a perfect blend of ebb and flow.

Growing up, growing old and everything in-between – that’s what lies at the heart of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” These stories – two dozen-plus in all – run the gamut of what the experience of being a woman can mean. While there’s a lovely specificity to the tales being told, there’s no denying that there’s plenty here to which any woman can relate. There’s plenty of good, plenty of bad … and more than a little ugly.

Just like in your closet. Or mine. Or really, just about anyone’s. So why not try “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” on and have a look? One size fits all.

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