Oil Lamp Theater, a cozy and welcoming performance space in downtown Glenview, is the home of friendly faces, delicious complimentary cookies, and quality theatre. The latest production to hit their stage is Love, Loss and What I Wore. Written by the late, great Nora Ephron and her sister Delia and based off the book by Ilene Beckerman, Love, Loss and What I Wore is something like The Vagina Monologues without teeth.
The script weaves together stories of women from a wide variety of backgrounds, all of them, from the shortest one-liners to the central story line of a woman named Gingy, centered on clothes—what these characters wore, and why; how they obtained each garment; how each garment affect them and the people around them. Particular highlights include two brides describing how they chose what to wear to their wedding, which ends in an adorable twist, and a rant about purses that spoke to my very soul.
Like The Vagina Monologues, the play draws from the experiences of real-life women; unlike The Vagina Monologues, it doesn’t dive deep into the most intimate aspects of women’s lives, instead flitting around the coarser aspects of sex and other gritty topics. Still, I always enjoy work that centers the experiences of diverse groups of women; in a media environment that is still largely male-dominated, shows like this one feel like a breath of fresh air, for all that the text is a bit dated (the claim that any woman under thirty who says she hasn’t dressed up as Madonna is either lying or Amish is rather less applicable to my generation). And the relationship between articles of clothing and important moments in our lives is an undeniable one; the monologues reminded me of dresses or shoes I’ve worn that were important to me at one time or another in my life, and in that way the storytelling takes on a universal aspect.
The rotating cast of characters is played by five women: Nicola Howard, Gabrielle Gulledge, Anne Marie Lewis, Madeline Bunke, and Katie Barberi. Howard, whom I had seen previously at Oil Lamp in The Teacher’s Lounge, gives several standout performances, including my favorite purse monologue. But the strongest performer onstage is definitely Barberi, who performs various ages, accents, and sexual orientations flawlessly, always with buckets of charm that make it impossible not to cheer for her characters. The other performers are all up to scratch, if not as memorable as Howard and Barberi.
The costumes for the show are simple but effective: all-black ensembles for the cast make it possible for them to slide in and out of multiple personas, but the individuality of each outfit reminds us that women’s experiences with clothing are not a monolith. Initially, the artwork representing the main character, Gingy’s, various outfits annoyed me with its lack of detail—in a play so focused on clothing, shouldn’t the details of that clothing be portrayed clearly?—but my opinion softened when I thought about the fact that they were meant to be Gingy’s own drawings of the outfits, rather that flawless recreations.
Love, Loss and What I Wore is a play with a great title and an interesting story to tell. While it might not be the best play you’ll see all year, it’s definitely worth seeing.
Location: Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview
Dates: Thursday, April 19, 8:00pm – Sunday, June 3, 3:00pm
Times: Thursdays through Sundays. Evening performances at 8:00pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees
Ticket: All performances $35. Group and student rates are available. Call 847-834- 0738 or visit the Oil Lamp Theater website.
All photos by Gosia Photography.