Thursday, April 23, 2009


The 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to Lynn Nottage (top photo) for her play, Ruined (bottom photo, from the Manhattan Theatre Club production), a play about the brutalizing of women during a decade of war in the Congo, modeled on Brecht's Mother Courage. Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey visited refugee camps in Uganda, Rwanda and other parts of Africa to base this play on reality. In an article in the March American Theatre magazine by Randy Gener, Nottage said, "You can't reconcile the incredible beauty and gentleness of the culture with the horror and the suffering. The play is about how they coexist." Among her other plays, Nottage wrote Intimate Apparel which was produced a few seasons ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Here's my brief review:

Intimate Apparel by contemporary playwright Lynn Nottage is set in early twentieth century New York, and concerns a modest young African American seamstress (played by Gwendolyn Mulamba) whose correspondence with a man from Barbados while he is laboring on the Panama Canal (Erik LaRay Harvey) leads to marriage. Their lives intersect with a wealthy and lonely white socialite (Terri McMahon), a ragtime piano-playing prostitute (Tiffany Adams), a Jewish cloth merchant (Gregory Linington,) and a maternal landlady (Perri Gaffney.)

 This drama (directed by Timothy Bond) uses graceful language, generous acting and expressive staging (with scenic design by Richard Hay) to portray complicated and often warm relationships, in an historical context in which we see class, race, ethnicity, gender roles, economics and even technology influencing the fates of these characters. The audience in the 600-seat Angus Bowmer Theatre were spellbound, and audibly got the main character’s final secret, expressed in a single gesture.

 Lynn Nottage is a fast-rising playwright, and Intimate Apparel is a solidly built and subtle play. 

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