Texas State never fails to astonish me when it comes to the productions that they put on, and Intimate Apparel is no exception. I was able to go to one of the invited dress rehearsals, which was fantastic for me because that meant it was free! Also because it was a dress rehearsal meant that I was not seeing a completely finished product, which was pretty clear when it came to some aspects of the show.
The pacing of this show was a big problem for me. Act one dragged like no tomorrow and I could not even really see a plot emerging until about the middle mark of the first act. Then when the end of act one came along and it was intermission I, and my friends who came and saw the show with me thought that the show was over because there wasn’t an intermission announcement. However, the show’s pacing problems were a thing of the past when it came to acting two. The second act was full of this energy and vitality that I did not see at all in the beginning. This could just be thanks to the writing, which had a lot of padding and development for the entirety of act one, and then it built on that and turned it into motion in act two.
The set of this show was gorgeous, I can truly say that my breath was taken away by the first look at this set. It was divided into four main spaces, each on a different level depending on the social ranking of the character who inhabited that place. Just by looking at the spaces, I was able to decipher who lived there and what their relationship would be like with the main character. What I loved the most about this set was the gorgeous drapes that replaced the normal Texas State curtains, they had this fluidity and shine that framed the stage perfectly. The lighting design was also amazing, every time a scene was happening there was a different type of lights, dimmer and softer colors in Mrs. Van Buren’s boudoir, almost a dirty feeling light in Mayme’s room, and a friendly lighting plot in Mr. Marks’s fabric store/apartment. And whenever there was not a scene going on, you could see where the window was in the rooms and the light shining through the windows. It was the small things like that which made this show gorgeous to look at.
When it comes to the acting it was clearly still in rehearsals, some of the actors had it down, and others needed maybe a couple more rehearsals before they would be ready for the public. Esther, our main character played by Ashley Hildreth, gave a very compelling performance, but I truly think she may have needed one or two more rehearsals to really have a knockout performance. Her emotional scenes felt a tiny bit forced, but when she has those moments of anger I was legitimately scared for those around her. Esther is not an easy role to play considering that she is onstage for the entire show, and putting a college student in a role this demanding and emotionally draining is a feat and the fact that Hildreth was able to pull this off speaks wonders about her abilities.
Rachel Webb plays Mayme, the prostitute with a heart of gold and piano skills to die for. Webb was able to make a character that would be difficult to make likable into someone I would want to be friends with. She had a gritty realism to her but still had a warmth about her that almost reminded me of Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Her piano “playing” was done spectacularly, it felt as if she was really playing the rags, but the sound design could have used a little more work to make it sound more live and real.
Liliana Rose played Mrs. Van Buren, which at first seemed like a very one-note character, but as the play went on and the character got more time to interact with Esther, I could see all the layers of the character being revealed. To be completely honest this is a difficult role to be able to relate to considering that our world now is very different from the world that Mrs. Van Buren occupied. What Rose did well was keeping me interested in this character and kept building the arc of this woman as she is living in a society that would not accept any part of her.
Jada Owens gave a warm performance as Mrs. Dickson. She gave this character a life to her that reminded me of Sophia from The Color Purple. There was a strength to her that I really enjoyed, and I could see the type of woman she was when not onstage. However, the age was an issue for Owens, I couldn’t entirely tell how old she was and I would not have known that she was older than Esther without the gray streaks in her hair.
The two men in Esther’s life were fantastic, George was portayed by George Lamar, and he gave a performance that was constantly threatening. Even when there were those moments where he was charming. I was ready for there to be a moment of physical violence, because it was set up by a conversation between Esther and Mrs. Dickson, and I was actually impressed that they didn’t do what was going to be predictable. Mr. Marks, played by CK Anderson, was a master of silence in this very wordy show. To be completely honest in the scenes between Anderson and Hildreth where there was silence said way more than the ones where they were talking. His accent work was great and I absolutley loved everything about his performance.
Overall, it was a fantastic show and with the extra rehearsal that I know they got I know it is an even better show. Congratualtions to Texas State Universtity on another great show in the 2016-2017 season.