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The Daily Tar Heel

PlayMakers' 'Intimate Apparel' shows emotional range

PlayMakers Repertory Company production of Intimate Apparel. CREDIT: Jon Gardiner

PlayMakers Repertory Company presented their latest show Saturday evening with “Intimate Apparel” at Paul Green Theatre. 

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, “Intimate Apparel” follows an African-American seamstress named Esther Mills, who lives in New York City in 1905. 

While fashioning clothes for the elegant men and women of high society at the time, Esther has acquired a reputation for being talented as she strives for independence and respect. The themes of love, joy, sorrow, misfortune and well-being are explored as Esther lives through the tribulations of the early 20th century. 

First and foremost, this dramatic representation, directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges, is uplifted by the cleverness of the playwright’s script. Nottage employs smart and witty dialogue that helps showcase the personalities of the characters, as well as their relationships with one another. Additionally, the story's progress is well-paced, realistic and natural. 

The play consists of strong performances by the whole cast. Every performer greatly complements the uniqueness of Nottage’s script. Standout performers include Rasool Jahan as Esther and Myles Bullock as George. 

Jahan, the lead actress, gives off a subtle sense of humanity in her performance. She is quite diverse in her emotional range, as she would be sassy, confident, smart, gifted and even humorous throughout several moments in the play. The audience automatically empathizes with her while she tries to balance her struggle for intimacy and her goal of fulfilling her dreams. 

Bullock has proven time and time again to be an experienced actor with range. His previous PlayMakers character depictions, such as the ones in “Detroit ’67," “Seminar” and “Peter and the Starcatcher," are evidence of his broad skill set as a performer. In this incarnation as George Armstrong, a laborer from Panama who would eventually become Esther’s husband, Bullock plays a man of questionable intent. In Act I, George is characterized as a loving potential suitor for Esther, with the morals of a gentleman. In Act II, however, the opposite is revealed as he turns out to be selfish, greedy and inconsiderate. Bullock plays both sides of this character to great effect. 

The technical aspects of the performance, the lighting design, sound design, scenic design and costume design were creatively authentic. The combination of all of these theatrical elements creates an atmosphere that is quite alluring for the viewer, as the audience is drawn into the world of the play in compelling fashion.

Overall, “Intimate Apparel” is not for the faint of heart. The play is not a love story. It is not a coming-of-age story. This story is about the highs and lows of the human experience. Our emotional journeys as human beings can, at times, become joyous, saddening and complicated. But the perseverance to move forward is what can drive anyone to do extraordinary things. 

Esther is a personification of that perseverance, and reminds us that every person has that capability to keep moving forward.

"Intimate Apparel" will be performing at Paul Green Theatre through Feb. 12.


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