archive
links
essays

Intimate Apparel

(Left to right) Lisa Young as Esther and Allison Learned as Mrs. VanBuren
(L to R) Lisa Young as Esther
and Allison Learned as Mrs. VanBuren
Photo: Christine Fisk
for DenverMind Media
It's easy to skim over the past looking at old photographs, briefly visiting moments frozen in time, but how often do we ever sit and contemplate what was happening to those who inhabit these images? Playwright Lynn Nottage did, imagining what life was like for her great-grandmother at the turn-of-the-20th-century.

As a seamstress, Esther Mills (Lisa Young), fashions high-end undergarments for ladies of society—Mrs. VanBuren (Allison Learned)—and ladies of the night—Mayme (Simone St. John). She is a righteous, church-going woman who does right by everyone and assiduously saves her earnings in hope that she will one day be able to open her own beauty shop. With her plain looks, she is resigned to live alone, despite the efforts on her behalf from her boarding house landlord, Mrs. Dickson (Colette Brown). Her closest male friend is Mr. Marks (Seth Maisel), the Jewish cloth dealer, who saves special weaves for her. Then one day, she gets a letter from a laborer working on the Panama Canal, George (Cris Davenport), which begins a promising correspondence.

Lisa Young as Esther and Seth Maisel as Mr. Marks
Lisa Young as Esther
and Seth Maisel as Mr. Marks
Photo: Christine Fisk
for DenverMind Media
Young's Esther is achingly beautiful, her heartfelt concern for everyone shining through, even as her own heart is breaking. The care Esther puts into her work shows in Debbie Faber's fabulous costumes, especially the fancy undergarments. Maisel creates a beautiful tension, with Mr. Marks' feelings for Esther bubbling up through the surface of his circumspection. Davenport deftly navigates the arc of George's transformation from warm, humble prospect to duplicitous, macho manipulator. Learned and St. John are striking in their resplendent corsets, their class contrasts, and in the parallel vulnerabilities and desires they share with us through their characters. Brown provides the much needed and central emotional rudder for story.

Lisa Young as Esther and Simone St. John as Mayme
(L to R) Lisa Young as Esther
and Simone St. John as Mayme
Photo: Christine Fisk
for DenverMind Media
Director Seth Rossman gets incredibly consistent performances across the entire ensemble and tells a poignant story with five evocative and economical settings (Alex Polzin) in a very tight space.

Vintage Theatre Production's presentation of Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage runs through July 10th. For tickets: vintagetheatre.com.

Bob Bows



  Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster