Review: Studio Players' 'Love' is well done but suffers from déjà vu

Contributing Culture CriticJanuary 10, 2014 

  • THEATER REVIEW

    'Love, Loss and What I Wore'

    What: Studio Players' production of Nora and Delia Ephron's play

    When: 8 p.m. Jan. 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25; 2:30 p.m. Jan. 12, 19, 26

    Where: Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre, 254 W. Bell Ct.

    Tickets: $20, $11 students. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to Studioplayers.org.

Lexington's venerated community theater Studio Players continued its season Thursday night by opening a decently rendered production of Love, Loss and What I Wore, Nora and Delia Ephron's funny, touching meditation on the role of clothing in women's lives.

This is the type of play destined to make the rounds of theater companies, because it offers great roles for women and doesn't demand expensive production values. (It is written as readers' theater, in which the actresses sit on stools behind music stands, declaiming the monologues from scripts rather than from memory.)

Ease of presentation coupled with the delightful accessibility of the play itself would normally make Love, Loss and What I Wore a perfect fit for Studio Players.

However, there is a disturbing tendency among theatrical presenters in this region to retread material. With all the thousands of viable plays out there, it seems that Lexington troupes could avoid showing the same work more than once in a season, as happened, for example, with August: Osage County in the 2012-13 season, and has occurred with this piece.

Last summer, the Lexington theatrical group On the Verge mounted a memorable production of Love, Loss and What I Wore. Now only half a year later, Studio Players offers the same play. It's not clear which theater secured the play's rights first, but whatever the answer, Studio Players' rendition, again well done, is at a clear disadvantage.

Director Ellen Hellard wisely followed the readers' theater concept in staging the piece, so it came off effectively, although some transitions from monologue to monologue could have been smoother or clearer at Thursday's opening-night performance. Despite the presence of the scripts, the actresses fumbled with lines sometimes, but they approached their parts enthusiastically.

It did not help clarify the play to expand the number of characters called for from five to eight, but all the women did good jobs with their roles.

If there is a leading character in this ensemble piece, it is Gingy, who gives us a tour of her closet through drawings. Janet Kinstle plays her with sweet dignity, if not with the urbane flair inherent in the character.

In fact, all the actresses were challenged to varying degrees in portraying the New York Jewishness that informs the script.

Nevertheless, the octet of women — Kinstle, Linda Berg, Joe Fields-Elswick, Donna Taylor Gann, Jessica Slaton Greene, Debbie Sharp, Erin Leland Tuttle and Stephanie Wyatt — gave the show their best shot, and each had many moments to let her talents shine through.

David Bratcher's minimalist set was enhanced by his warm lighting design. Apparently, the actresses were encouraged to provide their own chic black garments, perhaps not the wisest move in some cases. Although the old adage is true that there is no accounting for taste, in theatrical costuming, someone needs to be accountable.

True, Studio Players attracts its own audience base, and its production of Love, Loss and What I Wore allows people who were not able to catch On the Verge's extended run now to enjoy this appealing play. But it is not an important enough piece of theater to warrant two Lexington productions in one season, nor does this second production vary or improve on anything offered by the first.

Nevertheless, judged on its own merit, Love, Loss and What I Wore is a fine entry in Studio Players' calendar and should be a big hit for the troupe.

Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.

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