Every now and then you witness the opening of a play or a musical and you don’t know where to start to report on it because it was that good. Intimate Apparel, brilliantly directed by Scott Schwartz, now playing at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, is that kind of play. After the first five lines you are locked in and focused. It is a show that when you leave the theater you feel like you have just witnessed something truly special, mainly because you have.
Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage weaves with words an early 20th century (1905) story that has power, relevancy and importance now perhaps more than ever. Nottage’s words stitch race, religion and gender into one coherent statement, perhaps in the most effective way I personally have ever witnessed on a live stage.
An important reason was the polished and skillful acting by the whole cast. Rarely can I say there was not one weak link in this intimate cast of six actors. However, Schwartz’s direction and use of a rotating stage added the magical motion that literally kept the show moving from one scene to another and connecting the dialogue, action and energy. His direction and result was like watching a 3-D chess match and understanding every move and nuance.
The main character of the play is the black seamstress Esther, played by Kelly McCreary (star of Grey’s Anatomy), who delivers the complexity of nature this part demands. She earned every thunderous clap and shout she received from the show’s standing ovations.
The powerful, booming voice of Edward O’Blienis, who plays George, Esther’s suitor/husband, ignites and stirs emotions with the delivery of every line. His stage presence is epic and his movements have kinetic magic.
Portia magnetically plays the role of Mrs. Dickson. In this role, Portia has a warmth, toughness, earthliness with grit that is the glue and oil of advice we all get rolling through life. There is wisdom in all her lines.
Julia Motyka brings a certain spark in her portrayal of Mrs. Van Buren, a wealthy client of Esther whose tragic and comical issues ring true for too many married women to this day. The stunning Ms. Motyka commanded the stage with great delivery timing, nailing so many laugh lines that in the end made poignant social points.
In almost every show there exist characters that play the bellwethers of controversial social complexities. I believe the characters of Mr. Marks, played by Blake DeLong and Mayme, played by Shayna Small does just that.
DeLong’s portrayal of Mr. Marks, whose interest in Esther comes with the dilemma of religious and social taboos that are slowly being overcome to this day.
Whereas Small’s portrayal of Mayme, a saloon piano playing prostitute, has quite a lot of layers of social issues within her lines. Again, the wisdom and social insights of the playwright, Lynn Nottage, shines through the writing especially quaintly within the limited lines of these two characters.
Now no show succeeds without the efforts of a small army of folks behind the scenes and bright lights. In this case they are: Jeff Cowie for Set Design, Mike Billings for Lighting Design, Andrew Diaz for Props Design, Jill BC BuBoff for Sound Design, Stephen Gabis for Dialect Coach, Meg Murphy for Hair/Wig Design, Gwendolyn M Gilliam for Production Stage Manager, and Stewart/Whitely for Casting.
However, I would like to end this review by crediting/applauding/praising Emilio Sosa for his Costume Design for this show. Besides the magnificence of the show, it was the talk of the post show party.
Intimate Apparel, running until Sunday, July 30, is the second production of the Bay Street Theater 2017 Mainstage Season.
Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For ticket information call 631-725-0818 or visit www.baystreet.org.