On Friday, Dec. 1 a packed audience gathered in the John Astin Theater in the Merrick Barn to watch the first of three performances of Love, Loss, and What I Wore.
The play, based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman and written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron, details the experiences of different women in various stages of their lives and the clothes they wore at the time.
The piece was directed by well-known actor and Hopkins professor John Astin, who teaches a number of classes in the Theater Arts & Studies Program.
Astin Theater reflected the intimate subject matter of the play. The theater, compact and all black, has only around a dozen rows of plush seats and a small black stage.
The eight actresses sat in a row at the front of the stage, their scripts in front of them. All were dressed in black, a color that is discussed at length in the play for its effortless style.
The tone of the performance seamlessly alternated from playful to somber to sentimental. The characters discussed a range of topics including their prom dresses, first bras, relationships with their mothers, romantic relationships and favorite pieces of clothing.
Overall, the play was a celebration of the little details in the lives of these women and others like them. After a trigger warning provided at the start of the performance, the play touched on a number of serious subjects, such as sexual assault and homophobia.
While the original production was performed by five women, the parts were broken up differently for this eight-member cast. Each cast member had their own extended monologue that presented the story of a nameless woman who had a significant experience in a specific item of clothing.
There was one character who had received a sweater after she was initiated into a Chicago gang; one who drove her husband home from prison in nothing but a raincoat; and one who struggled with finding wedding attire and with her mother’s disapproval of her marrying a woman.
While each character had a monologue that was central to the performance, the only recurring character was Gingy, played by Hopkins senior Emily Su.
Gingy relays the story of her life from the time she was a young girl growing up in New York City to the point she is at now as an old grandmother.
At each stage of life, Su pulled a cardboard image of a dress off of a clothes rack and showed it to the audience. We see the dress her father buys her for her 13th birthday, the dress she wore when she is pregnant with the children of one of her many husbands and one of her old dresses that her granddaughter now wears for dress up.
The direction of the play was skillful and well thought out. Astin’s years of experience as an actor, director and teacher were on display as each cast member hit a near perfect tone and expression for each line.
Su, who has taken a number of classes with Astin — including “Acting I & II” and “Scene Study” — commented on her experiences working with him.
“John is such a great technique teacher. He really emphasizes just ‘talking and listening,’ ask anyone who’s taken his class,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “He’s amazing at getting us to connect with one another, which produces really natural and grounded work.”
The connection between characters captivated the audience, who sat in an understanding silence during the serious material and laughed aloud at each comedic moment.
Su remarked on what she hoped audiences were able to gain from the performance.
“Because of its content, this play is so directly relatable to so many people,” she wrote. “I hope we were able to relate to our audiences, and I hope they were able to walk away feeling like their life experiences had been acknowledged and celebrated.”