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Plays take a peek at unmentionables

2 award-winning playwrights offer moving drama, satirical comedy for GTA’s February festival

POSTED: February 3, 2011 12:30 a.m.
/For The Times

"Intimate Apparel" by playwright Lynn Nottage explores love, expectations and reality during the early 20th century.

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Contemporary life is inundated with Victoria's Secret images, but at the turn of the century, the subject of  unmentionables would have unmasked private areas of another's life and challenged social conventions.

Next week, the Gainesville Theatre Alliance will open its February Festival of two very different plays related by time period and title, but one a deeply moving drama and the other a bawdy farce.

The plays will be presented on alternating nights, from Tuesday through Feb. 19 at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre in the John S. Burd Center for Performing Arts.

Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" poetically portrays Esther, an African-American seamstress who creates exquisite lingerie for women of both the boudoir and the brothel in 1905 Manhattan.

As years pass and young friends marry and leave the boarding house, Esther keeps her loneliness at bay by deftly stitching beautiful things for other women's intimate moments while dreaming of starting a business with her savings.

Out of the blue, a stream of love letters begins to arrive from a Barbadian laborer working on the Panama Canal. This winner of five Best Play awards and Pulitzer Prize contender is filled with desire, passion and betrayal.

In "The Underpants," Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) focuses a zany eye on the relationship between Theo, an oafish government clerk and his voluptuous young wife, Louise.

In starchy Victorian Germany, two very different men face cardiac arrest when they are witness to the full descent of the luscious Louise's lingerie during an outdoor celebration. To Theo's dismay, Louise gains instant celebrity and attracts all kinds of romantic intrigue in this frothy, naughty comedy. Both plays are rated PG-15.

As opposite as these plays are, both deal with expectations of love and what happens when reality doesn't match the dream.

In "Intimate Apparel," the plain, religious heroine yearns for marriage, but doesn't want to settle. In "Underpants," the main character is in a marriage devoid of physical affection, until her public exposure and the resulting attention leave her heart hungry. The satirical treatment of middle class German society contrasts with "Intimate Apparel's" slice across racial, religious and class lines.

"Intimate Apparel" is written by Nottage, a Brown University and Yale School of Drama graduate.

Director Jim Hammond wants to focus on the aspect of the play that "we will do, believe or sacrifice everything for even a chance at love."

"The Underpants" is Martin's adaptation of the 1910 German farce "Die Hose" by Jewish playwright Carl Sternheim, a German Expressionist who ran in the same circles as Kafka.

"The Underpants" starts with low physical comedy, graduates to fast and furious action with witty dialogue and comic seduction scenes. Atlanta's Alan Kilpatrick guest directs this play for GTA.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is in its 31st season as the creative collaboration between Gainesville State College, Brenau University, theatre professionals and the Northeast Georgia community.

The plays will be performed in repertory (alternating nights) at Brenau University's Hosch Theatre beginning Tuesday, with both plays being performed on the two Saturdays, which will have both matinee and evening performances.

Reserved tickets are $16-18 for adults, $14-16 for seniors (65 and older) and $10-12 for students. Discounted general admission is $8. Preview performances will be performed as well.



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