Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Classifieds
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
 Personals
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Comment
   Looking Up
   Reckonings
   Opinion
   Myth America
   Letters
   Rapp On This
 News & Features
   Newsfront
   Features
   What a Week
   Loose Ends
 Dining
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
   Leftovers
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
 Music
   Listen Here
   Live
   Recordings
   Noteworthy
 Arts
   Theater
   Dance
   Art
   Classical
   Books
   Art Murmur
 Calendar
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
 AccuWeather
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad
Sharing secrets: (l-r) Gary, Hogue and Perry in Intimate Apparel.

The Fabric of Love

By James Yeara

Intimate Apparel

By Lynn Nottage, directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill

Capital Repertory Theatre, through Oct. 14

Shakespeare’s Othello has been called “the play about a handkerchief,” a specially crafted intimate article of clothing for Elizabethan women. That play about love, power, and culture twists on the handling of Desdemona’s handkerchief as it moves from character to character. Lynn Nottage’s award- winning Intimate Ap parel follows the twisting movements of similarly personal foundation garments as the play unfolds its tale about love, power and culture. While the strawberry needlepoint of Desdemona’s hanky creates more havoc and reveals more of love’s nature and power’s usage, the blue corset at the core of Nottage’s play shows the stakes for the various characters in this finely crafted domestic history.

Set in New York City during 1905, Intimate Apparel tells the tale of Esther Mills (Rochelle Hogue), a 35-year-old seamstress eking out a living making the titled garments for Fifth Avenue socialites like Mrs. Van Buren (Yvonne Perry) and Tenderloin district prostitutes like Mayme (Tanesha Gary). Residing in the boarding house of Mrs. Dickson (Venida Evans), a matron who knows it all (having seen it all) and who encourages Esther to open her eyes before she’s too old, Intimate Apparel unfolds as Esther travels between her sheltered room and her clients’ boudoirs. These bedrooms are on opposite ends not only of the socioeconomic spectrum but, paradoxically, also of the spectrum of sexual satisfaction: The desperate Mrs. Van Buren shows that having money can’t buy even sybaritic love, while Mayme shows money can buy lots of it.

In between these different levels of female wealth and poverty, discomfort and comfort, is the way station of Mr. Marks’ (Gregor Wynnyczuk) fabric shop, where the sensitive Jewish merchant presents another forbidden love to Esther, as well as the raw material to turn into intimate apparel. Presenting further complications is Esther’s unsought love, George Armstrong (Maduka Steady), a Barbados laborer working on the digging of the Panama Canal, who writes letters to her in sort of an early version of Match.com.

As with Capital Rep’s opening production last season, Syncopation, the history of the era informs the play, but it’s the dynamics among the characters that engage. A benchmark of director Mancinelli-Cahill’s style is the strength of actresses’ performances. The women are present in their scenes, engaged, intimate, not merely reciting lines in wavering accents. Evans’ Mrs. Dickson is a force that should be listened to. The scenes between Esther and Mrs. Van Buren and Esther and Mayme provide passion and betrayal as the three women, each in turn, wear the electric blue corset with its sparkling, dangling decorations highlighting the bosom that supposedly enflames male desire. Esther’s scenes between Perry’s Mrs. Van Buren, with her believable Southern-belle accent and frustrated desire, and Gary’s Mayme, with her earthy eroticism and throaty singing voice, give Intimate Apparel a quickening pulse. There’s a marvelous moment when Gary’s Mayme stands stunned, taking in the multiple levels of her betrayal and loss, staring off downstage left, the light slanting on her from upstage. Such glimpses of the female heart create an intimacy with the audience that shouldn’t be missed.

 


Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
   
earn-chips2_120-x-60
jcrew.com120x60
Banner 10000136
0109_001C
 
 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.