You made it through “The Vagina Monologues.” Now five more women sit at music stands at the Geffen Playhouse to describe all the other body parts and the garb covering same in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” Nora and Delia Ephron’s celebration of character as defined by clothing. Guys may experience some disorientation (it’s like eavesdropping on a secret society’s rites), but the nostalgic collage will be catnip to female audiences, especially those old enough to have lived through, say, the bicentennial. And all can enjoy a gifted femme quintet in expansive, loving form.Ilene Beckerman’s bestselling mini-anecdotes from a midcentury Gotham girlhood are read aloud by Carol Kane, accompanied by Beckerman’s gangly cartoons (amusingly hanging on a rack) of the memorable dresses and accessories she encountered along life’s highway. To fill out the evening, Kane’s teammates intersperse a variety of monologues, solicited by the sisters Ephron from a cadre of contributors, on the inextricable linkages between wardrobe pieces and personal highs and lows. Tracee Ellis Ross scores with the reminiscence of a favorite shirt gone missing, while Natasha Lyonne mulls over two very different prom gowns and Carolyn Aaron bemoans the impossibility of managing a purse. Rita Wilson’s highlight chronicles the lifeline offered by a piece of lingerie to a breast cancer patient. Poignancy and even terror intrude, though good humor (light and bawdy) is the main order of the night. The thesps’ pleasure in each other’s work and company is palpable throughout, as they share their frustration with overstuffed closets offering “nothing to wear,” the thrill of dressing like Madonna and the joys of basic black. MVP is the apparently ageless Kane, turning on a dime between mischievousness and melancholy as she conjures up the apparel of mom, bubbe and best friend, skirts and blouses evoking memories of so-so marriages and passionate lost loves. It’s the Stanislavsky System (dredging up emotions by way of intimate connections to physical objects) at its most beguiling. After four weeks a new cast will rotate in, running until July 4 and maybe beyond.
Geffen Playhouse; 143 seats, $74 top
A Geffen Playhouse presentation in association with Daryl Roth of a play in one act by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. Directed by Jenny Sullivan.
Lighting, Lap-Chi Chu; production stage manager, Young Ji. Opened, reviewed May 13, 2010. Runs through July 4. Running time: 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.
With: Carolyn Aaron, Carol Kane, Natasha Lyonne, Tracee Ellis Ross, Rita Wilson.