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Drama dept. produces appealing 'Apparel'

By Caitlin Spiess, Staff Writer

Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel," the final production of the Drama Department's spring season, tells the story of Esther Mills (Chelsie Tuttle), a 35-year-old woman who lives in a boarding house in 1905 New York. She watches her neighbors get married and leave while she remains a boarder of Mrs. Dickson (Christina Williams), with only a sewing machine as her only companion.

She makes a living sewing intimate apparel for ladies of all walks of life including the wealthy Fifth Avenue socialite Mrs. VanBuren (Jackie Nese) and Mayme (Dani Thomas), a "lady of the night."

When she starts receiving letters from George Armstrong (Kevin Best), a Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal, she begins to wonder if she has a future as a wife after all. However, her true affections lie with Mr. Marks (Steve Spera), who provides the fabric she uses to make such beautiful clothes.

"Intimate Apparel" is beautifully directed by Jean Dobie Giebel, complete with luscious costumes, an extraordinary set designed by Kurt D'Amour and all-around solid performances. Spera and Tuttle in particular displayed remarkable chemistry despite the fact that entire portions of their dialogue were drowned out by piano accompaniment.

Another minor criticism is the recurring motif in which Mayme suddenly bursts into an interpretive dance after ripping off her corset. While the meaning of these moments wasn't lost, it nevertheless took me right out of the drama within the scene. But nothing is perfect; I still cannot recommend this production enough.

I was practically in tears when the lights came up, and I say that in the best way possible.
I'm not going to give anything further away, because I think you should see for yourself just why "Intimate Apparel" is a superb depiction of a strong woman whose struggles are just as relevant today as they would've been over a hundred years ago.

Chelsie Tuttle (left) as Esther and Christina Willians (right) as Mrs. Dickson in the Drama Department’s production of Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel,” directed by Jean Dobie GIebel in the Black Box Theater in the NAB. (Sean M. Gates- The Chronicle)

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