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Intimate Apparel
American Stage

Nicole Williams
Another era begins at American Stage as new Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte makes her debut directing Intimate Apparel by Pulitzer Prize winning (for Ruined) playwright Lynn Nottage. Although Ms. Gularte had not been hired when the season was chosen, she has a keen sense of this play, delivering a solid production in every sense, pulling vivid performances from her fine cast. After the play and before a talk-back, I had a chance to speak with Ms. Gularte who told me that her directing style involves trying to delve deeply into the relationships between the characters in whatever work she is directing. It was interesting that she said this because I noticed that the characters seemed to be strongly involved with each other and thought it one of the compelling elements of the production. Welcome to American Stage Stephanie Gularte, who appears to be still very young.

At the center of this play is Esther, a talented seamstress making her mark on early 20th century New York. Nikole Williams is simply cherishable in the role. The action takes place over a year's time but the character grows from unworldly to much more sure of herself, and Ms. Williams is fully up to the demanding role. Eddie Ray Jackson plays George, the man Esther corresponds with and eventually marries. Because the play is focused on Esther and their marriage is not a successful one, he is the villain of the piece. But Ms. Nottage's writing is so rich and his performance is strong, the audience can still connect with the circumstances that drive him. The other characters in Esther's life are customer Mrs. Van Buren played by Katrina Stevenson, landlady and mother figure Mrs. Dickson played by Fredena J. Williams, fabric merchant Mr. Marks played by Daniel Capote, and friend Mayme played by ZZ Moor. All of these actors are terrific. There is a large amount of warmth between the characters helping the story to resonate with the audience.

The action plays out in four locations on American Stage's large playing area in a detailed set by Steve Mitchell. Costumes by Saidah Ben-Judah are very accurate for the period and add greatly to the overall production, as does lighting design by Jonathan Williams. This is one of the most consistently strong productions I have seen at American Stage in a long time.

Tampa Bay theater lovers would be well advised not to miss this brilliant production of Intimate Apparel, a play already well on its way to becoming a modern classic.

Intimate Apparel at American Stage Theatre Company, through October 11, 2015, 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg. For more information, visit

Cast (in order of Appearance):
Esther: Nikole Williams*
Mrs. Van Buren: Katrina Stevenson
Mrs. Dickson: Fredena J. Williams*
Mr. Marks: Daniel Capote
Mayme: ZZ Moor*
George: Eddie Ray jackson*,br>*=Member of Actor's Equity Association

Direction: Stephanie Gularte
Scenic Design: Steve Mitchell
Lighting Design: Jonathan Williams
Saidah Ben-Judah
Sound Design: Stephanie Gularte & Rachel Harrison
Property Master: Jerid Fox
Production Stage Manager: Rachel Harrison*

Photo: Courtesy of American Stage

--William S. Oser

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