Intimate Apparel | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Intimate Apparel 

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Lynn Nottage's award-winning play is like the extravagant corsets created by its protagonist, both sturdily constructed and richly detailed. Set in Manhattan in 1905, it's based in part on the story of Nottage's great-grandmother, an African-American seamstress who sold her wares to both society matrons and women of ill repute. In some ways Intimate Apparel is an old-fashioned story about a spinster taking a last chance on love, however ill-advised. But its somewhat predictable arc is fleshed out by director Jessica Thebus and her cast, who focus with warmth and sympathy on each character's aching need for human touch: this piece is all about the textures. As the seamstress, Velma Austin is contained in her dignity, but when her watchful integrity clashes with her carnal desires, she's mesmerizing and damn near heartbreaking to watch. Through 3/13: Tue-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM. Wed 2/23-3/9, 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2/27-3/13, 3 PM only. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, downstairs theater, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650 (TTY 312-335-3830). $20-$60.

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