By Kyle Poluyko

Seven women take the stage, dressed elegantly yet simply in black. The simplicity, though, ends there. In Love, Loss and What I Wore, each of these women–strong, complicated, vulnerable, resilient–take their seats on stage to recount moments and experiences in their respective lives, arrested by the impact articles of clothing or accessories had on adventures, encounters, relationships, love and, yes, loss. The production, produced and directed by Lawrence Badanai, is skillfully crafted. The actresses are sublimely magnetic.

Adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron from the book by Ilene Beckerman, Love, Loss and What I Wore is told primarily through monologues that occasionally intersect with one another. The recollections of these women are as textured and florid as the fabrics and colours of the garments they recall. The hilarious, sentimental and sometimes painful retrospect they share is a singular theatrical experience, stripping away the mystery of a woman’s love/hate relationship with her attire. Each woman reveals her deeper struggles in a manner that other women can relate, and that men will find enlightening.

Projections of memories of homemade and hand-me-down dresses and gowns, scarves, accessories, boots, shoes and bra straps sweep above the women, accentuating their anecdotes. They talk not only of their personal celebrations and struggles with clothing, but the impact of their fun imitations of pop icons. More poignantly, they reflect on effect of others’ reactions to items apparel, the myths of colour and combinations of clothing, the dread certain items can elicit, and the connotations of what a woman wears makes her: a slut, a gypsy, confident, lost. They lament with comicality the shared experience of “having nothing to wear,” the adamant assertion that “nothing will ever be the new black,” and the void deep inside, no matter the size, a purse.

The women in character are well-deserving of the applause they receive. Beverley Gravelle-MacLeod’s experience and wisdom gives her authentic authority. Candi Badanai’s sensitivity is alluring. Julie MacCoy, alternating between exasperation and resignation, is true realism. Heidi-Mae Gordon’s acceptance of her struggle with size, expressed with confident humour, is inspiring. Jesica McNabb delivers a captivating Kathleen Turner-esq wit and drawl. Armelle Sanford’s youthful exuberance is charming, and Tara Rowe’s sincerity is delicate and touching.

Love, Loss and What I Wore continues its run at the Paramount Theatre on July 29, 30, and 31 at 8 pm. Tickets are $15 and are available in advance at Wiggles and Giggles or at the door.