Long distance romance creates love in vain
Charm, love, opportunity, the elements of a whirlwind romance, are falling into place for this spinster seamstress like cards stacked in a game of solitaire.
Playwright Lynn Nottage does a masterful job of placing the age old quandary of 'should I stay, or should I go' beautifully into this period piece story of love, life in the early twentieth century in the Actor's Warehouse production Intimate Apparel currently in play through February 11.
Ms. Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a prolific screenwriter. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination,) moved to Broadway after a sold out run at The Public Theater.
For the Character Esther (Tereva Crum-Stauffer) a seamstress who lived alone since her early teenage years the unexpected romantic interest for this hardworking, in a boarding house with seven other women, This middle aged lady was receiving in her regular mail love letters a man half way around the world and it was heart stopping exciting.
It was making sense to Esther Mills who was growing tired of living in a boarding house with all these women every day. Besides, the regular delivered letters of praise, admiration, did imply charm. George Armstrong (Mark Anthony Kelly) was sending from Panama were working on Esther's imagination.
How could this full-grown, hard working man helping build the Panama Canal be interested in a woman that has only worked in the garment industry from a very young age.
What would George think if he knew she couldn't write and had to get someone else to write her return mail missives. Geographical proximity, background, personal likes, and dislikes become incidental in this whirlwind union of two people with similar emotional, and physical needs.
AW Director Deborah Dickey has created a world of emotion on the Actor's Warehouse intimate stage setting as two individuals discover what love really means up close and personally after reeling themselves into a relationship based on 'alternative facts,' rather than reality.
Living with a man was something Esther really had given no consideration until she and George were face-to-face. Her new husband had no problem indicating his needs, and assistance from his wife financially and otherwise.
All of George's ideas, plans, were falling into place nicely. He was now living in New York with a loving, giving, attractive woman with a real job. Esther was the perfect wife. He could find that perfect job later.
Esther and George were surrounded with a cast of well intentioned friends in this New York Neighborhood graphically depicting a turn of the century world for many consisting of a few blocks of New York City and a neighborhood with all the elements of a prize winning soap opera.
There is an interesting similarity between the Intimate Apparel characters offering a glimpse into a possible qualities for a potential partner, mate for Esther.
Living in the rooming house for many years Esther acquired a stable of friends from all walks of her life including Shanteria Strawbridge's Mayme, a prostitute that plays a surprising role later in Esther's life.
Mandy Fugate did an excellent job emulating Mrs. Van Buren, a married woman in a relationship that had withered on the vine while she spends her time acquiring all the things she believes women of her stature should possess.
This was Aleksandr Wilde's (Mr. Marks) first appearance on the AW stage. Portraying a Jewish Material salesman, Mr. Marks offered a similar, albeit contrasting look at Esther's unmarried status. As the character Mr. Marks he is quick to mention being involved in an arranged marriage with a women in Europe he had never seen.
Jamaili N. Taylor's portrays a long time customer, and friend Mrs. Dickson, offering the story a view of what could be construed as a normal life in this New York neighborhood.
The Actor's Warehouse Production team of Lynda Harris, Lee Malis Amie Soleyn, Mandy Fugate, Syndni Solomon, Julia Devine and Lynn Dickey created a subtle, obvious, early twentieth century time period background, and environment where these distinctly different characters, with completely different agendas, sort out a life together full of learning, sharing, co-existing complete with percolating ironies that drive this story to an ending where this viewer was puling very hard for a good outcome for an interesting neighborhood of hard working, deserving, doing the right thing characters. Well, most of the characters any way.
Intimate Apparel is a compelling production complete with several script surprises that had me nodding my head, smiling in knowing surprise of critical story-telling moments coming to light..
No, I'm not sharing those 'Ah Ha' moments in this review. I will say the time period was perfect to emulate the ever enduring stereotypical relationship Faux Pauxs of giving, taking, ownership, and expectations. This was accomplished in an excellent story of a individuals wanting to fall blindly in love with absolutely no expectations. Only to discover life is full of responsibilities, plans, actions not necessarily planned, to your liking.
When the train left the station
With two lights on behind
Well, the blue light was my baby
And the red light was my mind
It's hard to tell, it is hard to tell
All my love's in vain