"Love, Loss and What I Wore," a show that had its beginnings in the Hamptons, returns to the area Thursday when it opens at the Southampton Cultural Center starring a rotating cast that includes local favorites, celebrities — and the author of the 1995 book it is based on.
The play is a series of monologues by women whose clothing has impacted pivotal events in their lives, and in its five-year history it has been typical for the cast members to change frequently. However, this is the first time that author Ilene Beckerman will step in to perform the role of Gingy, based on her own life.
Director Michael Disher said it came as a surprise when Beckerman learned of the upcoming production and wished to take part in it, though he was more than happy to have her. She will also join a cast talkback with the audience at the opening night Thursday. "She is quite the character — as witty as she is dear," Disher said.
Cookbook author and novelist Katie Lee, a veteran of the January 2012 off-Broadway production of "Love, Loss and What I Wore," will perform on the third weekend, along with style and beauty expert Gretta Monahan.
Also joining the cast are former beauty queen and soap actress Brooke Alexander, Barbara Jo Howard, Bethany Dellapolla, Susan Cincotta, Paula Brannon, Deborah Marshall, Susan Wojcik, Catherine Maloney and Edna Perez Winston.
The play was scripted by Nora Ephron, who died in June, and sister Delia Ephron. It originated as a weekly staged reading in 2008 at Bridgehampton Community House presented by East Hampton's Guild Hall, which was undergoing renovations at the time. The inaugural run was directed by Karen Carpenter.
"For me, the key to the play is that it is about women sharing stories with each another," Carpenter told . "It is not about flash or staging, it’s literally about having no fourth wall and really communicating with each other, so women realize that they’re not alone in the things they experience in their lives."
Some of the cast members in the play's early days and through its commercial run off-Broadway and in Chicago have included Tyne Daly, Marlo Thomas, Rosie O'Donnell, Jane Lynch, Fran Drescher and Loretta Swit.
“Rotations of the casts proved a vital part of this show's success,” Disher said. “The mass appeal of the piece deserves to be voiced by as many women as possible, so we have gathered a group of talented and diverse women to present this piece. How each actor interprets each piece brings something new and unique to the production.”
Disher said that taking on the task of directing a project written by and starring only women was eye opening. "A lot of thing I didn’t know — a lot of things I didn’t need to know,” he quipped.
The show has been staged on six continents and more than eight countries. Disher said one way that Southampton Cultural Center's production stands out is that most of the cast took part in weeks of rehearsal, whereas historically "Love, Loss and What I Wore" actresses often only practice for two days before being rotated into the cast.
Disher said the Southampton cast will not just be reciting the words — they will be acting, making the work more intimate and accessible.
Performances for "Love, Loss and What I Wore" will run from Jan. 10 to Jan. 27, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at the Southampton Cultural Center in Southampton Village. General admission is $22. For students under 21 with ID, admission is $12. Group rates are available and reservations are encouraged.
The opening night on Thursday, Jan. 10, will feature a talk-back with the cast including Ilene Beckerman, followed by a reception in the gallery. Tickets for opening night and the reception with Beckerman are $35.
To purchase tickets, call 631-287-4377 or visit scc-arts.org.
Inside the Southampton Cultural Center's Levitas Center art gallery, black dresses on loan from local merchants will be on display — the first time fashion has been celebrated at the gallery, according to Disher.