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Clothing evokes memories in ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’

Are you someone who associates significant events in life with specific scents, foods, or visual cues?

Ilene Beckerman connects the high and low points of her life – including motherhood, the death of a child, and three marriages – with clothing. She wrote about these in her 1995 book, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” which Nora and Delia Ephron later turned into a play of the same name.

“Love, Loss,” is next onstage at Montgomery Playhouse.

The play pivots around the narrator Gingy. But there are other characters – among them are a vulnerable gang member and a brave cancer patient.

This is the third show Meghan Williams Elkins, who plays Gingy, has done at Montgomery Playhouse. She often performs with the British Players as well.

“I like ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ because it’s hard to find a feminist play with strong women,” she said.

Beckerman, who wrote “Love, Loss” at age 60 in scrapbooks, intended to disseminate it among family members only. But a friend sent it to a publisher, and Beckerman has published several books since. Beckerman doodles and draws to accompany her writing; she provided the illustrations for the Playhouse production.

“Beckerman is no clotheshorse,” said the actor. “She wrote the book with the intention of letting her children know that there’s much more to her than being a mom. It’s about the relationships between mothers and daughters, and other relationships. It resonated with so many women.”

Beckerman experienced trauma in her life but emerged happy, said Kryss Lacovaro, who is directing. She lost her mother when the author was 12; her grandparents took her away, so she never saw her father again. But the book and play refer to more-humorous aspects of girls and women’s lives as well, including buying a bra, prom dresses, and the hatred of purses.

The play won the 2010 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and has enjoyed productions in more than eight countries and gone on a national tour.

Lacovaro started acting “in front of a mirror at home” as a child. Since moving to the area in 2000, she has appeared in more than 50 productions – “quite a few” at Montgomery Playhouse.

She also co-directed one-act productions at Silver Spring Stage, but this marks her debut as the sole director of a full-length production.

“Still, I consider myself more of an actress than a director, and would have auditioned myself, had I not been planning my wedding,” Lacovaro laughed.

The Ephrons wrote the play originally to be a reader’s theater, with five women, all wearing black, sitting on stools with scripts in front of them, the director said.

The number of characters, though, has varied from production to production, with Montgomery Playhouse using seven.

Each has multiple roles, except for the narrator, and each presents a series of monologues. There are also ensemble pieces.

“Ordinarily, I create visual montages of who would suit each role [among those auditioning,]” said Lacovaro. “With actors playing multiple roles, it’s harder to figure out. But all of my actors are amazing.” Because the script offers no stage directions, Lacovaro is finding the directing experience “a little scary but exciting. I like the organic nature of the play, how it’s grown and changed.”

A bit reminiscent of the children’s game “Telephone,” the actors create some of the dialogue as they go along, in “clothesline fashion,” prompted by cues. The director has also taken some of the monologues and made them “interactive.”

Like Williams Elkins, Lacovaro “loves strong women. All the roles here are exciting. The play is also funny, though heartbreaking.”

“Love, Loss and What I Wore” runs April 20 through May 6. The venue is CoMMotion Fitness, 13220 Wisteria Drive, in Germantown. For more information, visit: www.montgomgeryplayhouse.org.

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