In the lobby of "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," you can buy a really fetching red T-shirt that says, "Do you have this in black?"
It is the sort of question - cheerful and self-lacerating - that permeates the freshest parts of this breezy, but not exactly deep, 90-minute overview of women's relationship with their clothes. Co-written and/or compiled from interviews by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron (and based on Ilene Beckerman's 1995 bestseller), the piece bounces stories and topics among five actresses who sit on chairs and read off music stands. Everyone, of course, wears black.
The casts include some celebrities and will change every four weeks. The one I saw is terrific. Rosie O'Donnell, Samantha Bee, Katie Finneran and Nathasha Lyonne pass around the emotional memories of the clothes of lots of different young women - shaded, almost inevitably, by debilitating and inspirational things their mothers told them about their looks. Tyne Daly broadens the lens with the lifelong saga of Gingy, now a grandmother, who keeps charming cardboard illustrations of her wardrobe history on closet hangers. Think Giacometti drawings of droopy girls as fashion plates.
Nora Ephron (zeitgeist essayist, playwright of the criminally underrated "Imaginary Friends" and master of the romantic-comedy chick-flick genre) has described this evening as the "Vagina Monologues" without the vaginas. This would be wittier if it weren't quite so true. Following the now-familiar structure, the show is a bit like a consciousness-raising party with a closet-nostalgia theme - bonding, perhaps, but limiting.
The women swap funny/sad stories about first bras, prom dresses, wedding dresses (including two for a lesbian commitment ceremony) and clothes worn to the breast-cancer hospital. We're fat, we're thin, we hate how we look in dressing-room mirrors. The mere mention of stretch pants with stirrups under the feet brings a laugh apparently as redolent to this audience as madeleines were to Proust.
This is humor of recognition, not revelation, deftly directed with snappy timing by Karen Carpenter. The show will probably run as long as there are women hungry to identify parts - any parts - of themselves today on the male-dominated stage. That, alas, is a chick thing, too.
WHAT "Love, Loss, and What I Wore"
WHERE Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St.
INFO $75; 212-239-6200; telecharge.com
BOTTOM LINE Closet shopping through the female psyche