(St. Louis, January 9, 2017) – The New Jewish Theatre continues its 20th Season with the Award-winning Lynn Nottage play, Intimate Apparel from January 26 – February 12. This beautiful, poetic, and poignant story is set in 1905 New York where 35 year old Esther Mills, a lonely African-American seamstress, yearns for a relationship of physical and emotional intimacy.
Esther’s heart seems to lie with the Hasidic shopkeeper from whom she buys cloth, and his heart with her, but the impossibility of the match is obvious to them both. Esther ultimately consents to marry George, a Barbadian man working on the Panama Canal with whom she has developed a correspondence relationship. As Esther sews intimate apparel for women across the socio-economic spectrum, from society ladies to prostitutes, the one thing she is unable to stitch together is a fulfilling relationship of her own.
Playwright Nottage (Pulitzer Prize winner for Ruined) is able to convey through her powerfully expressive writing, dramatic conflict that is not afraid to make sympathetic characters unsympathetic and to paint for her audience an intimate knowledge of loneliness and passion. The mutual attraction between Esther and Mr. Marks, the Jewish shopkeeper, is never to be fulfilled. Instead, they are simultaneously isolated from and connected to one another, providing poignant commentary on an era when one’s cultural heritage, and the cut and color of one’s dress and skin, determined whom you could marry, befriend, or even talk to in public.
The many layers of intimacy conveyed in the script range from the garments themselves to the various relationships Esther has with each character. Each fold of fabric reveals yet another layer. Nottage’s plays often center on unlikely protagonists. “All my plays are about people who have been marginalized,” Nottage explains, people “who have been erased from the public record.” Her dramas write these lost voices back into history.
There will be talkbacks scheduled after the performances of February 2 and 9. Gary Wayne Barker directs the production which features, Jacqueline Thompson* as Esther with Jim Butz*, Linda Kennedy*, Julie Layton, Andrea Purnell and Chauncy Thomas*. Intimate Apparel will run January 26 – February 12 in the JCC’s Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Tickets are $39.50 – $43.50 and are available at newjewishtheatre.org or 314-442-3283.