“Intimate Apparel” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 18, 2024


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

There’s something special about the poignant universality of unrequited love.  That’s the heart of Lynn Nottage’s beautifully crafted “Intimate Apparel” which is being presented in a brilliantly staged and marvelously acted Arizona Theatre Company production.

Set in early 20th century New York City, Esther, a talented and hard-working 35-year-old Black seamstress, has saved all her life making intimate apparel for rich women.  She’s never married, yearns for genuine love but has avoided romance for fear of rejection.  Her apartment house landlady, Mrs. Dickson, connects Esther by mail with a Panama Canal worker, George.  Even though Esther can’t read or write but aided by her friends and contacts, she has a lengthy correspondence with George who decides to come to New York and marries Esther.  The marriage is fraught with problems and he shafts her using her savings for lecherous affairs.  She leaves him but remains committed to finding the right person she believes will come for her.

It’s an uplifting play even though Esther goes through terrible emotional struggles and almost gives up on happiness.  Playwright Nottage keeps things interesting as the people in the seamstress’s life provide many experiences that enrich her as she continues to discover what makes true contentment.  The play relates how Esther’s experiences are widespread because most people have similar skirmishes throughout life.

Not only is the play superb but the ATC production couldn’t be richer starting with Tracey N. Bonner’s luminously subtle and always warmly gripping Esther.  Oz Scott’s sharp direction keeps the play gliding along on an exquisite unit set that transforms into the play’s various locales with swift fluidity and definition.

The other characters who help Esther learn the intricacies of life are carefully etched with defining perceptiveness.  Saundra McClain’s thoughtful Mrs. Dickson, Dawn Cantwell’s Mrs. Van Buren, the slutty wife of a non-caring man, Sarah Hollis’ neighborhood whore, and Corey Jones’ bullish George are all dynamic instructors for Esther.  Especially touching is Aaron Cammack’s Mr. Marks, a Jewish fabric dealer, who takes a shine to Esther’s achievements.

“Intimate Apparel” is a moving play about a common problem insightfully told by a gifted playwright and elegantly presented in a stunning Arizona Theatre Company production.  This is what exquisite theatergoing is all about.  “Intimate Apparel” continues through March 3 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 833-ATC-SEAT or ordered online at www.atc.org.

Grade: A

One Response to ““Intimate Apparel” – Arizona Theatre Company”

  1. Robin Banks said:

    Feb 19, 24 at 11:30

    As a male reviewer in 2024, you should really be careful in using words like “slutty”. Dawn’s work had richness and depth that you seem to have missed because of a preoccupation with her sexuality. Do better.