The story of a woman's life can be told through her clothes.
And in "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," which runs through Sunday at the Southampton Cultural Center, five actresses convey with heart-aching clarity the universal truths that can be found hidden deep within a woman's closet.
Whether remembering a Brownie uniform, a first pair of sparkly shoes, a prom dress, or the outfit inspired by Madonna in her "Desperately Seeking Susan" phase, it is the collage of clothes that capture a woman's history and help to summon, with a single glimpse, the rich memories of the days on which the outfits were worn.
"Love, Loss and What I Wore," written by Nora Eprhon and Della Ephron, and based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, uses seemingly innocent clothing to convey the most universal and triumphant of human truths.
Directed by Michael Disher, the cast of the Southampton Cultural Center's production takes each beautifully crafted line of dialog and polishes until the words glow with the luster of the finest strand of pearls — worn with a little black dress, of course.
Disher, masterful at his craft, also designed the set, as the five actresses sit at a series of music stands and tell their stories, sometimes looking up at a screen displaying the shoes and boots, bags and poodle skirts of their most deeply ingrained memories.
As is traditional for "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," the cast frequently changed over the course of the run. This weekend's actresses — Katie Lee, Gretta Monahan, Susan Cincotta, Susan Wojcik and Edna Perez Winston — work with a brilliantly stark set that allows their emotions and finely honed talents to shine.
Lee, a cookbook author and novelist, is a veteran of the January 2012 off-Broadway production of "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," and Monahan is a celebrity style and beauty expert who is a frequent guest on the "The Rachael Ray Show."
As the play progresses through a series of vignettes, the audience laughs, nods in recognition and shares tears as they see their own lives reflected in stories of the perfect sweater that somehow disappears, the boots that remain beloved, even after rape ravages a woman's soul, the purse that, no matter how expensive, always, always ends up cluttered with every single raggedy old lipstick and scrap of paper a woman owns.
Clothes no longer matter to a woman whose mother's closet is suddenly empty, after her death. The only piece of clothing that elicits emotion is a bathrobe worn by her stepmother — a bathrobe so similar to her mother's that when she points out the likeness, the bathrobe, like her mother, disappears forever.
And only red lipstick in the operating room, and a tattoo on her reconstructed breast, will do for a young woman who stands strong and fights back against cancer — and wins.
Such are the moments brimming with such raw emotion that an audience is rendered silent, except for the sound of soft tears.
Clothes, glorious clothes, can summon up gales of laughter as women recall the mortifying and ultimately triumphant experience of shopping for the perfect bra; the agony of buying a first training bra — and the embarrassment of wearing those thigh-high wool socks from Paris that Mom deemed haute couture, and the Perfect Boy dismissed with derision.
Disher's timing is spot-on as the actresses work as well as a neatly paired designer ensemble with their delivery. Their collective joy over the timeless color black; their shared agony over a full closet where there is nothing, nothing to wear — such is the symphony of shared moments and experiences that binds women as they journey through life. And head into their closets.
"Love, Loss and What I Wore" will run Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $22; students with ID, $12. For information call 631-287-4377. Purchase tickets at southamptonculturalcenter.org or at the door.