Top New Orleans actresses dress out for ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’

If one’s clothes could talk, what stories could they tell? New Orleans theatergoers will have a chance to find out this weekend.

A stellar cast of New Orleans’ leading actresses will reopen Le Petit Theatre after a 2½-year hiatus with the local premiere of “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” a 90-minute series of skits written by the late Nora Ephron and her sister Delia. Based on a bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman, the show runs from July 19-28 with four evening performances and two Sunday matinees.

For what is being termed a “lagniappe” production kicking off its six-play 2013-2014 season, Le Petit has enlisted a virtual “who’s who” among the city’s women performers for this show. Topping the bill are two seasoned Broadway veterans, Tony Award-winner Mary Louise Wilson and Leslie Castay, plus Big Easy Awards multiple winner Janet Shea.

Other talented New Orleans actresses in the nine-member ensemble include Tracey Collins, Lara Grice, Cecile Monteyne, Clare Moncrief, Nell Nolan and Carol Sutton. The production is being double-cast with five performers for each of the two weekends and Shea will perform on both of those weekends. Directing the show will be another Big Easy Awards multiple winner, Carl Walker.

“Rumored to live in unspeakably colorful, if reclusive, circumstances with a devoted dog and a vagrant cat in uptown New Orleans,” according to his official bio, Walker discussed the show and the message it is attempting to convey.

“In essence, it is a celebration of women and their lives and how they put their lives in perspective with their clothes,” he explained. “It’s all about how they express themselves and their feelings through their wardrobe.”

The subject matter of these skits covers “everything from mothers to buying bras, purses, mothers, why people only wear black, mothers, shoes, mothers ...” Laughing after his fourth mention of “mothers,” Walker elaborated on their significance in the script. “Most women have a great affection for their mothers and their mothers had a great influence on their life, good or bad,” he said.

The versatile Walker is also directing “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” for the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane through July 24.

Walker described the one-act “Love, Loss and What I Wore” as “monologues and a little dialogue. The skits, for the most part, are very funny. Some are touching. It’s very lighthearted. This is not a ‘for women only’ situation. Men will enjoy it too.”

Wilson, who grew up in New Orleans, counts among a star-studded career a Tony Award for her 2007 performance in “Grey Gardens” and a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fraulein Schneider in the 1998 revival of “Cabaret.” As a replacement for Marge MacDougall in the original production of “Promises, Promises,” Wilson won the 1995 Obie Award. That same year she took home a Drama Desk Award for “Full-Gallop,” a one-woman stage play she co-wrote with Mark Hampton in which she played noted fashionista Diana Vreeland.

In addition to appearing in numerous other Broadway and off-Broadway productions, Wilson held down roles in many television shows and feature film productions. Some of her best-remembered TV appearances were in episodes of “Frasier,” “Cosby” and “The Sopranos.” This year she is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Broadway debut.

“We are so delighted that Mary Louise is coming down here for this production,” Walker said. “She is one of the all-time greats of Broadway.”

As for the show itself, he added, “The audience will enjoy it very much. It’s a great show, easy to digest, and concise. With one act and no intermission, you can watch it and still be home in time for the news.”