Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 17, 2010

Intimate Apparel

New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through July 24, 2010
by Eric Johnson

"Intimate Apparel." Though the title might lead one to believe that a British sex farce is in the offing, nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, there are plenty of laughs in this show, and a liberal dose of sexual tension, but this powerful play by Lynn Nottage is a very serious piece, indeed. Set in New York in 1905, the script tackles relationships, racism, social mores, conscience and character. Once again New Century Theatre sets a high bar for production values and content, and the cast and crew hit the mark.

Lynette Freeman is absolutely riveting as Esther, a gifted seamstress struggling to make a place for herself in a world that does not give much respect to a 35 year old unmarried black woman. Her portrayal of the character is never in question, it is genuine throughout. Maggie Miller gives a wonderful performance as Mrs. Dickson, Esther's landlady, mentor and friend of many years. Gregory Mikell is an excellent choice for George, the handsome, silver tongued beau who works his way into Esther's life through his letters. The well to do Mrs. Van Buren (Sandra Blaney) is rather unsatisfied in her marriage and her life. Blaney conveys this consistently and convincingly. David Mason plays the Romanian/Jewish cloth merchant Mr. Marks whose connection to Esther is a subject of speculation for the audience. Mason finds a great line to walk with this character and sticks to it. The scene stealer is Alika Hope as Mayme. Hope has a very strong presence which is crucial to making this character work.

The set by Jaquelyn Marolt and costumes by Emily Justice Dunn are magnificent. Lighting by Dan Rist, and sound by David Wiggall complement this production nicely. Director Ed Golden guides this able and talented cast to a nicely polished opening night performance of a play that is full of grit, tenacity, and intimacy.