Whether it ought to be this way or not, many of the official and not-so-official rites of passage in a woman's life are measured and remembered by the clothes she wears. There is no more iconic example than the wedding dress. Even a promising date or interview can induce the "What will I wear?" panic.
The late Nora Ephron and her sister Delia explored the role of clothes, shoes, purses and all things style in their play Love, Loss and What I Wore, which the theater troupe On the Verge has mounted in a site-specific production at Après Vous boutique.
Featuring six women recalling the highs and lows of their lives through the evolution of their wardrobes, the play is a light, reflective comedy with surprising moments of depth and poignancy. The boutique décor at Après Vous significantly enhances the audience's experience by underscoring the theme of the play.
Director and On the Verge founder Ave Lawyer stages the show without much frill, the theatrical equivalent to the little black dress, which not so coincidentally is what the six actresses wear as they sit on tall bar stools behind music stands and informally tell their stories like longtime girlfriends.
The women rarely get up from their seats, and there are scripts placed on the stands, so the play sometimes has the feel of a staged reading. But the performers clearly have their characterizations and lines committed to memory. Once the play gets going, the vividness of the stories takes over and the format becomes an elegant, simple framing device.
In its relatively short history, On the Verge has done many things well, but one consistently stands out: It gives older actresses the plum roles that are so often missing from mainstream productions.
Samantha Doane-Bates, for instance, delivers a comical and at times heart-wrenching performance as Gingy, a woman we follow from girlhood to grandmotherhood through the stories of her clothes. Gingy's story — fights she had with her mother, her best friend's warning of an ill-fated marriage, wondering whether her grandchildren will remember her — is one of the strongest threads running through the show.
Another highlight is Janet Scott's performance as a woman who faced breast cancer at age 27. Determined to live so she could be with her younger brother, she uses the image of an underwire lace bra given to her by a friend as a kind of talisman to get her through the emotional trials of reconstructive breast surgery. Scott brings the tears in one of the evening's most touching moments.
Another features Stephanie Peniston and Erica House telling different stories about shopping for wedding dresses. In a sad and touching twist, we learn that they are connected in a surprising, moving way.
There are plenty of laughs, though, including Susan Wigglesworth's recollection of a paper dress and a painfully embarrassing incident. Georgeanne Edwards' tale about how a pair of cowboy boots led her into and out of a romance with a fellow boot wearer is a hilariously rendered segment about sisterhood, the mistakes women make and, if they are smart, unmake.
IF YOU GO
'Love, Loss and What I Wore'
What: On the Verge's production of Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron's 2008 play
When: 7:30 p.m. May 10, 11, 17, 18, 30, 31 and June 1; 2 p.m. May 12 and June 2.
Where: Après Vous Boutique, 183 Moore Dr.
Tickets: $25; includes reception and 20 percent discount at Après Vous. Available at Après Vous and Stephen Lawrence Ltd. stores, or call (859) 275-5577.
Learn more: Ontheverge.org, Sllupscaleresale.com.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.