Intimate Apparel

Jeff Cote & Naomi Sample
Take a Peek at “Intimate Apparel” at Sixth Street Playhouse

The tiny Studio Theater at Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa is the perfect venue for playwright Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Intimate Apparel.”  Bronwen Shears directs this powerful and poignant portrayal of a spinster seamstress and her dreams in life.  The audience is drawn into the different scenes taking place in each corner of the stage, some barely 10 feet from the actors. 

It’s 1905 in New York City.  Jobs are scarce; segregation is a fact of life.  Esther, a hardworking and practical black seamstress, accurately portrayed by Naomi Sample, regrets turning 35 without either a husband or standing in the community.  Esther is nimble and skilled at her craft, creating intimate garments of charm and seduction.  She yearns for a suitor who is neither foolish nor flirtatious, one who can recognize Esther’s inner attractiveness.  Mrs. Dickson, Esther’s busybody landlady, is unable to interest Esther in the limited selection of men currently available.  It’s a role well played by Marjorie Crump-Shears, a tiny lady with a lot of on-stage clout.  She warns Esther against starting a pen-pal relationship with a distant male working the Panama Canal.  The rugged George, played by a muscular Cameron Stuckey, is revealed through a shadow box as Esther swoons to the words in his letters.

Proud and talented Esther neither reads nor writes.  One of her customers, the wealthy yet bored matron Mrs. Van Buren, offers to assist Esther with her dilemma.   Erin Hoffman admirably portrays this character’s vicarious delight at writing Esther’s letters.

Plain-faced Esther also confides in her good friend, the gorgeous and seductive dance-hall gal Mayme.  Provocatively played by Rebecca Frank, Mayme is the ideal counter-point to the practical and genuine Esther.  Mayme also writes letters on Esther’s behalf, putting her own bit of sizzle to the notepaper.  

Of course there are complications.  Seamstress Esther’s meager pleasure in life has always been woven inextricably with fabrics and their colors, textures, and feel.  She shares this passion with the local cloth seller, a Jew from Romania, who is discreet yet tantalizingly drawn to his customer.  He is keenly aware of the barriers between him and the black Esther.  Admirably played by Jeff Cote, his embarrassed and repressed character is perfect in the role.

Following George’s arrival and hasty marriage to Esther, Act II brings betrayal, sadness, and new beginnings.  The audience learns more intimate details of the characters.  The landlady’s apprehension as she divulges what she gave up for a comfortable life is a revelation to Esther.  Seductive Mayme has always been a confidant and friend to Esther, but will her own self-interest win out?   What will happen with the Jewish cloth seller?  The characters stay true to their roots, whether resigned or hopeful, in this satisfying production.

Reservations are best since it’s a small theatre with open seating; through February 26th.  Get tickets at (707) 523-4185 or