Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Intimate Apparel

Daren Herbert and Marci T. House (Photo by David Cooper)

A Play gets one of many airings
Intimate Apparel is a Canadian staple this year - should it be?
by Jay Catterson

Intimate Apparel, written by Lynn Nottage, and directed for Arts Club Vancouver by John Cooper, centres around the life of an African-American seamstress named Esther and is set in turn-of-the-century New York City. Her talent and passion for sewing has provided her with a stable job sewing corsets and lingerie for wealthy women, enabling her to set aside her life's earnings inside a patchwork quilt in hopes of starting a beauty shop. She mysteriously receives a letter from a Panamanian laborer, and although she cannot read and write, she corresponds to this gentleman with the help of her friends, eliciting a clandestine penpal romance. Surprisingly he proposes to her via correspondence, and she accepts, setting up the dramatic events that challenge Esther's notions of love and self-worth.

Actress Marci T. House as Esther delivers a performance that is stellar...

Overall, the Arts Club Vancouver does a commendable job of presenting this work. I did feel that the pacing of the story was a bit slow at times, and the direction could have been executed better to deliver some of the more climactic moments with more impact. However, the small ensemble does a fine job delivering the source material, with performances that are heartfelt and at times rather heartbreaking. Actress Marci T. House as Esther delivers a performance that is stellar, highlighting the sensitivity of her character as well as the inner turmoil of her desire to love and be loved in return. 

This production also boasts exquisite costumes by Alison Green, and detailed sets by Pam Johnson, which reflect 1905 New York City very well, although I found the use of projections highlighting the different scenes of the play rather distracting and could've been omitted. Arts Club Vancouver's production of Intimate Apparel is a great precursor of things to come for this local theatre company, for they manage to expose, yet layer the hidden complexities of love - much like the delicate, yet intricate undergarments that Esther sews. 

Highly recommended.

Among other productions the work is or will be playing at Neptune Theatre and at Centaur Theatre

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