Love, Loss and What I Wore: COVID Edition at Haddonfield Plays and Players

Trendy theatre is back on display at Haddonfield Plays and Players. After fashioning an outdoor stage, the company returned Love, Loss and What I Wore to the HPP house. To keep the show from seeming retro, the producers appended “COVID Edition” to this sartorial fan favorite. This hot number sold out the evening of September 26th when your correspondent attended.

The production team took an avant-garde approach to the arts during the pandemic. Many community theatre companies now produce shows online. Haddonfield Plays and Players opted to go outside. A 24-Hour Build a Stage project replaced their 24-Hour Play Festival this summer.

The company took the proper measures to ensure audience safety. A staff member took everyone’s temperature at the entrance. Another checked-in spectators through a no touch transaction. A representative directed the patrons to their “seat” and measured six feet between spaces. Everyone wore face masks, brought their own chairs or blankets and their own snacks. No programs were distributed, either.  

Playwrights Nora and Delia Ephron adopted a Bohemian style when crafting this play. The structure consisted of a collection of vignettes shared by six women who performed as separates. The show’s foundation entailed the characters tying in the clothes they wore to key moments of their lives. The performers showed contrast through the melange between the script’s distressing moments and humor very well.

Director Tami Funkhouser ensured the performance wasn’t a knock-off, imitation or kitsch version of HPP’s original 2018 production. Ms. Funkhouser decreased the cast size from seven to six performers. Veterans of the original performance Lori Clark, Susan Dewey, Jenn Kopesky-Doyle, Nicole Lukatis and Annie Raczko returned to reprise their roles. Newcomer Lisa Heney joined the ensemble for this special performance.

The show contained a minimalist set. All the actresses dressed in black gowns. They each sat on chairs distanced six feet apart and recited their lines from a script. A rack containing multiple dresses positioned at stage left. Visual maestro Pat DeFusco projected images onto the wall of the building behind the stage.     

The clothes might not make the person, but they help to dress up a great story. The actresses delivered a series of monologs on various aspects of female attire. They ranged from clothes as a representation of one’s identity, Madonna’s influence on style, jewelry, jump suits, wedding dresses, purses and colors. The color black received its own individual section. As the director billed this as the “COVID Edition” of the Ephrons’ work, the cast performed an encore in which they reflected on masks.

The group worked as a chorus during certain scenes. After each performer explained she had “nothing to wear,” everyone shouted “nothing” in unison. They did the same when addressing the opposite dilemma: “I can’t decide.”    

All the performers delivered their lines with panache. Reprising her role as “Gingy,” Susan Dewey again showed why acting is her line. Other cast members also perfected the characters they played during the show’s original run. Lori Clark delivered a gripping reflection on her character’s breast cancer diagnosis and how it led to an interest in hats. Annie Raczko contemplated the parallels between her character losing a love and a favorite shirt at the same time. Jenn Kopesky-Doyle explored the disillusionment that accompanied her character’s fracturing marriage. Nicole Lukatis described how the miscellany one keeps in a handbag shows why “the purse is you.” (Her analysis made your male correspondent tremble at the thought of opening the trunk of his car.) The new addition to this team, Lisa Heney, delivered a horrifying tale centered on boots.  

Omi Parrilla-Dunne and Kalman Dunne managed the show’s sound. Evan Brody and his team built the stage.

This limited edition run at Haddonfield Plays and Players, Love, Loss and What I Wore concluded this weekend. It guaranteed the show will always be chic there. Some trendy styles never become deadstock. The cast ensured this classic performance will become a vintage one at HPP.

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