West Coast Florida
Love, Loss, and What I Wore
The play is done as reader's theater, actors sitting in chairs reading the various monologues and vignettes. That does not diminish its theatricality, especially when acted by the likes of Loretta Swit, Donna McKechnie and Mary Testa. They are ably assisted by lesser known Roni Geva and Rosalyn Coleman. All of these performers except Ms. Coleman bring experience from other productions of this show, and that adds to the richness.
Ms. Swit, best known from the classic television series "Mash," brings great warmth to the anchor character Gingy, who tells stories from various times in her life, using drawings of various outfits that carry the memories for her. The audience seems to have a built in affection for her, which is an asset that she uses well. The other actresses each get at least one major story and interact in word-dance riffs on various topics. In these sections the directing by Karen Carpenter is most telling; the pace is lively, but the audience is able to comprehend everything, not an easy balance.
I have long been a fan of Mary Testa from a distance, admiring her work on cast albums and in clips of her stage work, without ever seeing her in person. She did not disappoint. Her strongest solo piece is "Fat/Thin" and dwells upon the foibles of being a large lady. She is funny, brassy and warm all at the same time. Donna McKechnie, pro that she is, is heartbreaking in the eleven o'clock spot, "Geralyn's Story," about a woman's battle with cancer. Rosalyn Coleman and Roni Geva are strongest in a piece called "Brides" in which they share parallel stories about preparing for their weddings.
This material will certainly appeal to women, but I found it has much more appeal to me than the somewhat similar Vagina Monologues. Sarasota Audiences are being treated to some real star power in service of good material.
Asolo Repertory Theater presents Love, Loss, and What I Wore through July 15, 2012, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Directed by Karen Carpenter