Bintel Blog

Shmatta and Schmaltz: Ilene Beckerman Hits Off-Broadway

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Born in 1935, Ilene Beckerman, now a resident of Livingston, New Jersey, worked in the advertising industry, and published her first book at age 60, the bestselling “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” (Algonquin Books, 1995). Adorned with whimsical drawings of dresses worn by herself and family members over several decades, it displayed them as emblems of emotional milestones, whether of childhood, motherhood, or failed marriages. Deceptively light in tone, like the poignantly childlike drawings of the British poet Stevie Smith, Beckerman’s intense attachment to clothes is akin to the obsession with books as life’s landmarks expressed in another Jewish woman’s bittersweet memoir, Helene Hanff’s “84 Charing Cross Road” (Penguin, 1970).

Ever alert to dramatic potential, the sisters Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron adapted Beckerman’s work into an off-Broadway show by adding various clothes-related digressions, not all of them gripping, to the original candid, willfully naive narrative. The resulting play “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” opened on October 1 at New York’s Westside Theatre, where it will be performed by rotating casts of five actresses. Of the ensemble I saw recently, standouts were Rosie O’Donnell, seated with the monumental presence of Gertrude Stein although with admirable yoga posture, and the radiant Natasha Lyonne (born Natasha Braunstein to a New York Orthodox Jewish family). Lyonne, an alumna of the Upper East Side Modern Orthodox Ramaz School, conveyed genuine amusement at her fellow actors’ recitations, as well as charmingly felt monologues of her own, adding a touch of Beckerman’s domestic reality to the usual Ephron schmaltz, familiar from Hollywood films and humor books.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ilene Beckerman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.