Love, Loss and What I Wore in Hawaii
A few weeks ago, I jotted this in my notebook: Nora Ephron is dead. A friend’s sister was killed on the mainland. Eight Laysan albatross chicks were murdered, another five seriously injured. And no amount of living in paradise eases any of it. Death is death. Loss is loss.
As I re-read these words, I wonder what paradise is, anyway? Is it warm, tropical breezes; swaying palm trees; turquoise blue water; and white, sandy beaches? And how does that protect us from life’s dramatic turns of events?
I learned today that yesterday was “Sisters Day.” I had no idea such a day existed. A little research revealed a day of recognition for sisters much like those well-known celebrations for mothers and fathers.
I don’t have any sisters. But I find it perfectly fitting that I attended an Off-Broadway play at Manoa Valley Theater last week entitled, “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” I went with two friends—women. And the play was written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron.
The play, based on a book by Ilene Beckerman, weaves a series of linked dramatic monologues among five women of varying ages, each storyline chronicling each woman’s life. As the title implies, the life stories of each woman cover the subject matter of love and loss and the clothes that went with them. Some matched; some not so much.
It’s a provocative concept—the story of one’s life as it revolves around clothes. One of my earliest recollections of what was covering my body took place one Easter morning. I wore a beautiful coat and hat handmade by my mother. We went to a busy restaurant for breakfast after church, and I, sadly—guiltily--lost the hat. I next remember the long gown I wore at my nursery school graduation. Then, a certain top I wore for a grade school class picture. And I remember the swimsuit I was wearing when I met my husband.
“Love, Loss and What I Wore” was first presented as part of a summer series in East Hampton, New York, in 2008. Since then, it’s played at the Westside Theater in New York, where it won numerous awards and is noted as the theater’s second-longest running show. Well-known performers have included Linda Lavin, Rosie O'Donnell, Kristin Chenoweth, Rhea Perlman, Rita Wilson, Tyne Daly, Kathy Najimy, Marlo Thomas, Blythe Danner, Christine Lahti, and Parker Posey.
David C. Farmer directed the production on Oahu. The five women were played by Hawaii actors Lisa Barnes, Bree Bumatai, Victoria Gail-White, Stacy Ray and Lauren Murata.
The play doesn’t shy away from weighty subjects. It covers the same topics that would line up in any gathering of five women. There is the loss of a mother and father due to death and divorce. There is infidelity. Rape. There is the death of child. Cancer and mastectomy. And a lesbian wedding. The weighty matter is interspersed—and interspersed often—with laughter. A knowing laughter. The kind of laughter that stems from an understanding of and relating to a topic. The kind of laughter that generates a look passed from one person to another over a professed love for boots, the search for the perfect purse, a slutty prom dress and, even, a good girl prom dress.
The Manoa Valley Theater got its start as the Hawaii Performing Arts Company in 1969 and has come to be known as the place where Off-Broadway plays make their debut in Hawaii. Its 150-seat theater was all-but sold out last week. There were even a few men in the audience.
I’ve always known something. My girlfriends are my chosen sisters--the women with whom I cry, guffaw and flash knowing looks. And having my chosen sisters in my life—to get through the ups and downs of life--that’s paradise. Happy belated Sisters Day to all my girlfriends.