Review: Love, Loss, And Lace - INTIMATE APPAREL at North Coast Repertory Theatre

As delicate and lovely as a piece of lace, love, dreams, happiness, and reality are all woven together

By: Jan. 15, 2024
Review: Love, Loss, And Lace - INTIMATE APPAREL at North Coast Repertory Theatre

INTIMATE APPAREL is a beautiful and detailed production that allows its cast to shine as it explores the hopes and dreams of a seamstress who dreams of more from her life and the risks and rewards of pursuing those dreams.  INTIMATE APPAREL is now playing at the North Coast Repertory Theatre through February 4th.

Written by Lynn Nottage,  this play set in 1905 is loosely based on familial history and explores the many varied relationships in the life of Esther (Nedra Snipes), a seamstress who has lived in a New York boarding house for 18 years.  Over the years, she has built clientele, made friendships with her landlady Mrs. Dickson (Teri Brown), her material vendor Mr. Marks (Jonathan Fisher JR), and with two very different clients, a high society lady Mrs. Van Buren (Madeline Barker) and a brothel worker Mayme (Arizsia Staton). 

Review: Love, Loss, And Lace - INTIMATE APPAREL at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Esther has made beautiful garments for her roommates as they have moved on to marriages themselves, but she has never left.  When an unexpected opportunity for a connection comes through a letter in the mail from a laborer named George (Donald Paul) who is helping work on the Panama Canal, Esther finds herself in a  position where she has to decide if love is worth the risk.

When George’s unexpected first letter arrived, he was given her name and address by a pastor's son she knew as someone to write to while working on the project.  Esther longs for love and marriage, and though she cannot read or write, is excited at a gentleman’s attention, and the potential of love and marriage.  Mrs. Dickson tries to temper her expectations, but Esther has help in her correspondence from Mrs. Van Burne and Mayme.

Review: Love, Loss, And Lace - INTIMATE APPAREL at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Esther also has a connection with Mr. Marks, a Jewish haberdasher whom she has been frequenting for materials for creations for her clients over the years.  Though their lives are so different, they have a lot in common and form a close bond.

Beautifully directed by Jasmine Bracey, this play has a lovely emotional openness and vulnerability, full of heart and with performances that are finely tuned. With the scenic design by Marty Burnett, with the small locations simply sketched out but distinct, and a space behind that is used to great effect for the lighting design by Matt Novotny, Bracey uses this area very well, especially in building a sense of distance, and a slight out of focus dreamy quality for George. Costumes by Elisa Benzoni are period-appropriate and lovely, especially the corsetry, and the first act ending dress.  

Review: Love, Loss, And Lace - INTIMATE APPAREL at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Snipes as Esther is wonderful, she is practical but also a dreamer, vulnerable, but also strong enough to build a life for herself on her own for all these years.

The friendships between Esther and her female friends and clients all feel real and nuanced and also highlight the limited choices women at all levels of society had at this time, and what dreams may have been compromised along the way.   

Paul as George showcases the two sides of the character - from a wooing gentleman to a cad of a husband much to the audiences and Esther’s heartbreak.  While Fisher’s Mr. Marks is a man who is dependable and sweet and one who does not stray from who he is and what he believes. 

The sound design by Evan Eason was atmospheric and also helped build out the world, but this is a good time to put in a reminder note for audiences to turn off their cell phones.  At my performance, one moment we heard the sound design of birds chirping, and the next we had approximately 15 minutes of someone's phone alarm going off in the sound of wind chimes and feeling to floor vibrate.  Everyone in the cast and crew deserves more respect for their work than to have to perform through that, as do your fellow audience members.

As delicate and lovely as a piece of lace; love, dreams, happiness, and reality are all woven together into INTIMATE APPAREL.

How To Get Tickets

INTIMATE APPAREL is playing through February 4th at North Coast Repertory Theatre.  For ticket and showtime information go to www.northcoastrep.org 

Photo Credit: The Cast of INTIMATE APPAREL  photos by Aaron Rumley




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