Oh Fuzz, it has been a year. What do you do when three of your planned season shows have to be replaced? What do you do when you’ve been fundraising for years and trying to get out of your tight space? You pull up your boot straps and keep on trucking! And that’s what Spotlighters is doing. They have renewed their lease on the current space (yeah?) and have hired a new Development Manager, Peter Dalto, to help secure a future. Spotlighters is a staple in Baltimore, and launching their 57th season this fall!
Love, Loss, and What I Wore is a long standing Off-Broadway show that features women reminiscing their lives and what they were wearing while the major events occurred. There are also ensemble choruses lamenting women’s fashion struggles. Nora and Delia Ephron are the playwrights, they are the ones who brought you When Harry met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. It centers around Gingy, an older women walking us through her past lovers. It is interspersed with other character’s stories as well, but all focused around the theme of wardrobe.
I did not do a ton of research on this play prior to attending. Spotlighters has a kitsch for doing saccharine, off-Broadway pop shows- and this play, although it does fit that category, is more than that. First, it is not a musical. I repeat, it is not a musical. I cannot remember the last time Michael Tan’s pit band was not playing at Spotlighters. The BEST thing about this play, in my mind, was the diversity of women presented on the stage. I, along with some of my theater friends, often sit and bemoan the casting choices for productions. Women over 40 are played by women of 20 with wigs, plus size women are non-existent, and often one minority cast member is billed as diversity. So I was SO PLEASANTLY surprised to see women of different nationalities and body sizes all discussing their struggles with clothes- because EVERY WOMAN has struggled with women’s fashion- it sucks sometimes! We are different sizes in different stores, there is no rhyme or reason to what you will find and what is available, and they never have your size in black or on the sale rack- I feel you ladies.
Mickey Mullany does an exceptional job holding down the front for this play. She is Gingy, the vivacious lead who tells us the chronicle of her first lover, her first marriage, her second marriage, her children, and her final lover. Her enthusiasm, her story telling is well-arced and engaging. She really solidifies the show, as this role should. She is joined early on by Lyn Belzer as her mother, along with other characters. Lyn was holding placards off to the side of outfits Gingy was referencing in her narrative, but from my vantage point, I couldn’t see them. Spotlighters does the best it can with what it has, but I was really pulling for them to get a new space, one without columns obstructing views no matter where you sit.
The stage was given a simple makeover. The four corners have painted nods to fashion, one looks like a dress-makers shop, one a boutique of outfits, one painted with fashion magazine emblems. The floor kept its fake wood treatment that I do love. Characters carry chairs on and off and needed, otherwise the only props are really the fashion pictures referenced by the lead. The women sometimes wear the item discussed, other times just reference them. The costumes were simple and credited to Julia Golbey who kept everyone in a basic black. The variations are in how they each wear it- from leather mini-skirts to simple A-line dresses.
The cast is ten women, and the hard part is that the playbill doesn’t tell me who is in which scene. So I am aware that like Cynthia Miller is “Heather, Alex, Liz, and Ensemble” but the scenes don’t have names next to them- so I am having trouble delineating which one she is.
Two of my favorites, aside from Mickey, were Shamire Casselle and Lanoree Blake. Shamire’s entry during the stream-of-consciousness clothesline scene was about an inflatable bra, and it might have been the funniest scene of the night. Shamire’s connection to the audience was electric. She elicited the most laughs of the performance and had the people laughing on cue, totally in the palm of her hand. She has done television shows in the past and I can see why. She is magnetic. And the other, for me, was Lanoree Blake. I was chuckling copiously at her deadpan deliveries and loved her ocking leather mini-skirt. Her humor is more dry and lofty, in the lol range, but delivers the impact of intended jokes and connects in a more satirical tone.
The lights and staging had a few glitches, but what is opening night without them? There was some lag time between scenes, filled with music, but a little draggy for a show that is already over the two-hour mark. There were also some blackouts where I am not sure there should have been (the purse scene?), but all in all the show went on.
The magic of this is that I thought I was walking into a chick-flick, and instead I got a genuine story, well-told and way more pragmatic than I every anticipated. As the night went on the audience would begin call-backs, yelling “yes girl” and “don’t I know it.” Maybe it was opening night intensity, but the crowd was loving every moment of it.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? This is more than chick-lit, it is an engaging, plucky story of women struggling to find their way in life and depicting their clothes at each monumentous moment. Go and enjoy a wide range of actresses (LOVE THAT) come together and consolidate over their torment of fashion and journey to become self-aware and ultimately, happy.
Running through June 10th at Spotlighters Theater 817 Saint Paul Street. Running time two hours and ten minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission. Photo Credit: Shaelyn Jae.