Theatre Review: 'Intimate Apparel'

Anyone who’s met a “special someone” through online dating, e-mail or Facebook can relate to the hopes and longings of two lonely people who fall in love with - and marry – the person of their dreams, then realize that person exists only in the letters they’ve exchanged. Neither Esther (Raven Dauda) nor George (Kevin Hanchard) have much skill in reading or writing, so they turn to supportive friends for help in speaking across the formidable distance between Panama – where George is labouring in the heat and the mud to dig the great canal that will link two oceans. Esther is a 35-year-old seamstress in New York City, making her living by sewing fine lingerie and other intimate garments.

Tamara Kucheran’s set is laid out on five levels, each with its own texture – raw brick and satin drapery for the honky-tonk / whorehouse, clinging mosquito netting for the Canal Zone, silks and wools and laces for the cloth merchant’ shop, plush velvet for Mrs. Van Buren’s (Carly Street) 5th Avenue boudoir and the commonsense cotton of the quilt where Esther stuffs her life savings.

Performances were somewhat uneven. Esther, Mr. Marks (Alex Poch-Goldin) and George were authentic, believable, engaging characters but Mrs. Van Buren’s accent was inscrutable (I wasn’t sure if it was southern, European, or Bostonian). The speeches of boarding-house landlady Mrs. Dixon (Satori Shakoor) and of Mayme (Lisa Berry) – the prostitute who commissions bead-trimmed corsets and silk robes from Esther – were lost when they spoke too quickly, laid on the dialect or turned away from the audience, sometimes doing all three at once. However, these were small things in an otherwise engaging work.
Intimate Apparel shows us how outer selves, like outer clothing, express the roles we play in the wider world – whether 'funky' or 'buttoned-down', casual or corseted. Mr. Marks, the Jewish fabric merchant, wears a black suit coat handed down from father to son. The basic black reminds him of his basic relationship – to the God of his people.
Under the outer trappings, we see other layers – lacy, racy, rough-hewn or prayerful.

Beneath that layer is the vulnerable one we seldom expose – but when we do, we open ourselves to the hurt and harm we can do to ourselves or to the ones we love.

Intimate Apparel runs until October 24 on the Shoctor Stage in the Citadel.

more in Theatre Review     |     posted Oct 9th, 2010 at 11:38pm     

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