Intimate Apparel – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


With Valentine’s Day just a whisper in the past and this being Black History Month, West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park has fashioned a bittersweet tale of love and longing, of hopes and dreams that is Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” playing until Sunday, March 4. Ms. Nottage is the only women to win the Pulitzer Prize twice for literature. The search for love is universal, no matter what your life circumstances may be. It crosses family status and race, age and pocketbook.

Come meet Darlene Hope’s Esther, a mature lady of thirty-five who has almost given up on romance and marriage, but still clings to her dreams of opening a beauty parlor catering to her people, to treat ladies of color like royalty. To that end, she has worked diligently for almost twenty years to squirrel away dollars in a quilt for the future. Living in a boarding house, she spends her days as a seamstress sewing beautiful lace and satin undergarments for frivolous white women like her good client Mrs. Van Buren (Anna Laura Strider) who has man problems of her own to contend with every day.

The trusting and honest Esther one day receives a letter from Panama, from a stranger who is working on the Panama Canal. This man, George Armstrong (Beethoven Oden), desires to make her acquaintance with the remarkable desire to one day wed. The women in Esther’s life, like her landlady Mrs. Dickson (Xenia Gray), feel she is foolish to entertain these fantasies while her friend Mayme (Zuri Eshun), a prostitute, encourages her to take a chance at happiness.

The only other constant in Esther’s world is Mr. Marks, (Ben McLaughlin), a Jew, who sells her the lovely cloth to make her creations. Theirs is a forbidden attraction, one they both work hard to deny. When the mysterious George appears on her doorstep, Esther must make some difficult choices, ones that are soon complicated by what she longs for and what is the reality of her dreams.

Dawn Loveland Navarro directs this waltz through New York City in 1905 with an elegant hand, on a completely utilitarian set designed by Marcus Abbott, with a parade of costuming by Kate Bunce. Is George honorable and the answer to Esther’s prayers? Will her dreams of opening her beauty parlor come true? Are her friends Mayme and Mrs. Van Buren and Mrs. Dickson who they claim to be? This excellent cast is worthy of your admiration as you get caught up on their all too human desires and frailties .

For tickets ($20-40), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860- 523-5900, ext 10 or online at Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. The Sunday matinee is following by a Talk Back with the cast. Watch for the next Comedy Night, ninety minutes of laughter, on Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m., $15.

Come watch Esther weave a tapestry of straight and elegant stitches in her too trusting universe where having your dreams come true can be the best and the worst thing that could happen.