Part staged reading and part play, Karen Carpetner’s production of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” at the San Jose Repertory Theatre is a tale of how a woman’s wardrobe chronicles her life and changes as she does, from childhood to old age. It is often uproariously funny, full of clever observations about being a woman, but it’s somewhat frustratingly unpolished. The play is a series of monologues, adapted by Nora and Delia Ephron from the book by Ilene Beckerman and performed by five actresses, each adopting multiple roles. The play perfectly charts the different stages of life through clothing: We all remember that terrible outfit our mothers infuriatingly bought us as a child, that article of clothing that seems part of someone we love, how bad clothing feeds insecurities and the curious realization that our clothes will outlive us.
The cast of five actresses, dressed all in black, sits in a row of tall chairs with their scripts in front of them. And therein lies the problem. They too often read their lines and drop out of character as soon as they finish speaking, even though the lighting doesn’t change to obscure the actresses from the audience.
Zuzanna Szadkowski and Ashley Austin Morris give standout performances, rarely reading the text. Szadkowski delivers the best comic piece, the frank and observant “I Hate My Purse,” about all the ways her purse is a disaster – “Kleenexes that either have or have not been used but there’s no way to be sure one way or another” and “solitary Advils” – and how she worries constantly that it’s a reflection of her. On the other hand, Morris’ lament is a straightforward tale of the constant dilemma of having to choose between wearing heels and thinking. In her youth she chose thinking, but post-divorce, she chose looking gorgeous.