While you’re planning the many things you’ll be doing as we get into the holiday season, don’t overlook Intimate Apparel, in performance now at the Pasadena Playhouse. The play is set in Harlem in the 1920’s and centers on the story of a young black seamstress who makes gentlemen’s suits and women’s lingerie.
Vanessa Williams plays the seamstress. No, not the Desperate Housewives Vanessa, the original Vanessa Williams, who you’ll remember from her breakthrough role on the popular cable series Soul Food. Ms. Williams is a revelation playing a naive, insecure woman who is so radically different from her actual self that it was hard to believe it was Vanessa up there on that stage.
I know Vanessa personally and in my eyes she became that innocent girl and did it masterfully. The rest of the cast is outstanding as well, in this vehicle written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage.
It’s a story that underscores the fragility of relationships and how sometimes we think we’re fooling others when we’re actually fooling ourselves. It’s also a story of love and betrayal that still manages to elicit some laughs and an enduring spirit that allows us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.
Dawnn Lewis, who is probably best know for her work in the hit series A Different World and Hanging With Mr. Cooper, talked to me about playing a woman 10 years older than herself in Intimate Apparel.
She explains that director Sheldon Epps had a vision of both Lewis and Williams playing the lead roles, who are supposed to be 20 years apart, but because of their closeness in age and body types, he had to create the illusion of an age gap on stage.
“[Sheldon] really went through a great length to change our phys app and challenge us as actors to create in our voices and our body language the disparity in our ages,” said Dawnn.