Black is still the new black, purses can be a treacherous adversary and thinking women wear flats, but will stop thinking and rise up into heels.
A male friend once remarked that one can define the high points of an older woman’s life by her clothing style, but in Nora and Delia Ephron’s play “Love, Loss and What I Wore” things are not all that simple. Clothes may make the woman, but they make an even better crazy quilt of memories, as the current Laguna Playhouse production attests.
The Ephrons based their screenplay on a book by Ilene Beckerman. The show first premiered in 2006. Jenny Sullivan directs the Playhouse production as she did also at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and Rubicon Theatre in Ventura.
During the opening night Saturday, May 23, a mostly female audience laughed and sighed to monologues describing life in grade school and progressing through college and adulthood. The dialogue spanned the joys, challenges and tribulations of marriage, divorce, illness, recovery and sexual assault to humor, resilience and hope.
In the production’s first week, Nancy Dussault performs as the character Gingy, who serves as a quasi narrator among five actresses. She is on the stage with Lisa Hale, Amber Mercomes, Deedee Rescher and Erika Whalen Schindele, who were seated on bar-stool like chairs and wear the same outfit throughout.
Actresses are not named, but identified by their chair’s position on stage, such as Chair One and Chair Two.
Instead of costuming the women, the production uses the device of two production assistants turning the pages of a large sketchpad, whose pages show the various fashion trends of the passing eras. There’s reference to poodle skirts, to Madonna’s conical bras to the requisite black ensembles of the ‘90s and beyond.
Later Gingy offers an impromptu lesson in fashion illustration.
What distinguishes the show is that a new cast performs in each successive week and features three local residents and two non-Equity actresses.
Pat Kollenda, best known for her appearances in “Lagunatics” and her role as a member of the Arts Commission, describes herself as an amateur actor. She will play Gingy during the last week. “I’m a little nervous working with all those accomplished actresses and we will have only one rehearsal. But, the play is very well written and altogether people will have a change to see three different takes on the same material,” said Kollenda.
Lisa Hale, a Playhouse board member, previously acted in “Music Man” and “Once Upon A Mattress,” among other productions.
Schindele, featured this week, is a Laguna native and Los Angeles area actress.
Laguna resident and Equity actress Ava Burton delivers a monologue about surviving breast cancer. “It’s something poignant and beautiful and close to my heart since my closest childhood friend is a breast cancer survivor,” she said.
Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham has considered combining professional actors and local amateurs for some time now in order to connect the theater with the community. “The idea of having a different cast every week and featuring community members like Pat, Lisa and Ava will resonate since we are a tight community,” she said. “We have so many local resources, why not utilize them?”
The actor’s union allows the Playhouse to hire one or two non-pros in a season if it is undertaking a show’s production, rather than presenting a show produced by others.
Wareham said any actor, whether a member of the Equity union or not, can audition for a Playhouse production. Auditions are typically held in Los Angeles and in Laguna Beach, she said.
“We want to incorporate locals. People do all kinds of theater in this community, like for example a top-notch artist like Bree Burgess. We can’t do the work she does, but we can all support each other,” Wareham said.
Casts Change, Outfits Don’t
Week 2: Gingy, Dawn Wells; chairs 2-5 respectively, Hattie Winston, Linda Purl, Joanna Strapp and Alyson Lindsay.
Week 3: Gingy, Pat Kollenda, chair 2-5, respectively, Stephanie Zimbalist, Ava Burton, 4 Jennifer Leigh Warren and Eileen Galindo.