Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage at the McCarter

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The McCarter Theatre Center once again hosted a Pride Night on May 18th. The McCarter hosts one Thursday for every production of its season as a Pride Night, especially for the TGBLA community. This night, the production was Lynn Nottage’s drama Intimate Apparel.


First, let’s talk about the Pride Night. Beginning at 6 pm, for a $10 cover charge, patrons can come and enjoy an extensive array of finger foods, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and a cash bar. This time, a free drink was offered: A special, themed cocktail called the Purple Passion. The Purple Passion consisted of vodka and Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. Another ticket was handed out for a door prize later in the evening. Prizes ranged from three-month YMCA memberships, to supermarket gift cards, to CDs, to theatre tickets. If you haven’t attended one, please do so next time. The State Theatre in New Brunswick, seeing the McCarter’s success, just offered its own Pride Event two days later.


The play Intimate Apparel is set in New York City’s Lower Manhattan, circa 1905. According to the playwright, the story is based upon her own great-grandmother’s time and place in New York. This roman a clef focuses upon Esther, a thirty-five-year-old seamstress (played by Quincy Tyler Bernstine) who has lived in a single-ladies’ boarding house run by the imperious Mrs. Dickson (Brenda Pressly) for the past eighteen years. Esther is unloved and feels that at her age life is passing her by. She wants more than anything to be married, so that she won’t one day “blow away like dry straw.” One day, she receives a letter said to be by a man named George working on the building of the Panama Canal (Galen Kane). Letters are exchanged over a few months’ time, and …. Well … that would spoil the plot. To say that Esther meets a cast of characters through being a seamstress supplying women with the finest undergarments would be an understatement. The people she meets are as varied and interesting as those met by Candide. Kate MacCluggage, Tasso Feldman, and Jessica Frances Dukes deliver outstandingly memorable (and often touching) performances as people in Esther’s world.


Lynn Nottage’s voice is similar in many respects to the voice of the great playwright August Wilson. As with Wilson, we hear from each character a rich, often poetic conversation about themselves and their outlook on life. Often, we hear the anger and despair.  Here, as with Wilson, a piano often plays a prominent role in the life of one woman. Also like Wilson, Nottage acknowledges in her play the power of money, the need for human relationships, and the necessity of feeling loved, which are universal qualities.


While there are some obvious plot devices (the quilt stuffed with Esther’s life savings, repeated warnings about marrying someone sight unseen), the play is so skillfully done, and the direction by Jade King Carroll so truthful as it elicits the best acting from the cast, Intimate Apparel is a play many would enjoy seeing.


For tickets to Intimate Apparel now at the intimate Berlind Theatre until June 4, and to learn more about the McCarter’s 2017-2018 theater season, call 609-258-2787 or visit

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