Clothes Make Powerful Memories In 'What I Wore'

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Clothes don't necessarily make the woman _ but they can make a lot of powerful memories.

Boots, bras, handbags and dresses are just some of the apparel items enshrined in zesty, timeless stories and vignettes unfolded through women's kindred recollections in "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," an off-Broadway work by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron.

By turns funny, poignant, and occasionally rueful, some of the tales were adapted from a book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman. The Ephrons gathered additional stories and quips from friends, crafting a fast-paced, modern take on shared aspects of women's lifelong emotional connections to their wardrobes.

A rotating, five-woman cast of actors and comedians reads the material, bringing to life the subtle links between women's personal history and their memories about clothing.

Practicality rules the day, because this isn't a show about fashionistas. These are the stories of ordinary women explaining the allure of boots, the urbanite's devotion to wearing black, a fondly recalled childhood outfit, the teenagers' battle for clothing independence.

Apparel-related memories are tied to stories about relationships of all kinds, good and bad, between women and their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, lovers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands and more.

Tautly directed by Karen Carpenter, the stories often illuminate a moment when a woman's life noticeably changed.

Tyne Daly gives a warm performance as Gingy, a mature woman telling her grandchildren about her life through sketches of important garments she wore, beginning in childhood. Each drawing is connected to a vignette about a relationship or event, revealing emotions that inform the woman Gingy became.

Rosie O'Donnell reads a touching story about her deceased mother's bathrobe that resonates with the audience. O'Donnell is often fiercely hilarious, particularly in "I Hate My Purse," about a woman's ongoing battle with her handbag issues.

The initial cast is rounded out by Samantha Bee, Katie Finneran and Natasha Lyonne, all helping dispense wisdom and humor in these endearing tales from multiple closets and several generations.

Upcoming cast members include Kristen Chenoweth, Rhea Perlman and Rita Wilson. A portion of each ticket sale benefits Dress for Success.

"Love, Loss, and What I Wore" is playing through Dec. 13 at the Westside Theatre.

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