Last week I was happy to check out some live theatre while helping out a fellow (but much better known) Vancouver blogger Hummingbird604. It was great to be back in a darkened theatre, it had been too long. Working and volunteering for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and the Vancouver Fringe Festival I had a lot of opportunities to see and comment on a wide range of live shows and I like to keep it up when the opportunity presents. Here is my review of The ArtsClub Theater’s presentation of Intimate Apparel by
Intimate Apparel at The Arts Club (guest review by @TrevorJurgens)
One word sums up the Arts Club’s production of Lynn Notable’s Intimate Apparel from top to tail: craftsmanship. Starting with award-winning script it weaves through the resourceful set design, perfect-fit casting, meticulous costumes and precise acting.
“It’s 1905. New York City. 35-year-old Esther is an independent African-American woman who makes a good living sewing exquisite undergarments and corsets for brides-to-be. But she yearns to wear one of her own creations. When a mysterious stranger from the Caribbean strikes up a pen-pal relationship, the romance that blooms promises to fulfill all her dreams.”
When Esther receives a letter from the exotic suitor, we are introduced to George Armstrong (Daren Hebert) a Caribbean laborer working on the Panama Canal. George (Hebert) hooks the audience at first glance with his good looks and idyllic charm. As the correspondence continues the audience anticipates his next appearance like Esther craves George’s next letter.
Things play out in multiple sets that provide a voyeuristic view into the various boudoirs including Esther’s own boardinghouse room. Set designer Pam Johnson accomplishes a lot with the limited space at her disposal. I felt transported to Brooklyn at the turn of the century and learned some interesting things about the era, not the least of which is how little the challenges of love and relationships have changed over the last hundred years.
The plot is tied together with series of orders for hand-made corsets. Fortunately for Esther (and the audience) her business requires regular trips to Mr. Marks’ (Jonathon Young) shop for fine fabric and delicate flirtation. Mr Marks’ always has the choicest fabrics and is an artist in his own right. He spins romantic yarns about each fabric’s provenance while seducing Esther (willingly) into buying more than she came for. In a performance that reminded me of John Malcovich, Jonathon Young adds spots of color and comedy with his quirky Romanian accent and curious diction. For me the moments in Mr. Marks’ shop managed to outshine the other already glowing scenes.
The performance moves along with the rat-tat-tat of a well-oiled Singer accompanied by a rag time tune. With perfect pacing the two-hour show went by quickly and I didn’t want it to end. When the fast paced banter slowed, it focused attention onto the highly intimate exchanges between characters. This and the strong performances by the entire cast got the audience deeply invested. For me it was literally a gut-wrenching scene when it becomes clear to Esther and the audience that life is not always the stuff of dreams and love letters.
Clearly the opening night audience appreciated fine work. The actors were with a standing ovation and curtain call. This will not be the only positive review of Intimate Apparel. It is a great live theatre experience that I found very accessible and highly recommend.
Intimate Apparel is playing at the Granville Island Stage until March 10th. Showtimes and tickets are available online on The Arts Club website.
Thanks to Hummingbird604 for the chance to see this performance. The original review and others at http://hummingbird604.com/2012/02/17/intimate-apparel-at-the-arts-club-guest-review-by-trevorjurgens/.