And the shows go on!! If you can make your way through the piles of white stuff– there’s lot to warm your heart out there on stage. Here’s what I’ve seen recently:

TR_IntimateApparel_728-728x410INTIMATE APPAREL: This is a warm, wise tale about about an African-American seamstress’s hopes and dreams unfolding against the huge historical changes afoot¬†at the turn of the last century.¬†Inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning¬†playwright Lynn Nottage’s own¬†history and delicately directed by Summer L. Williams, the production glows like a small gem on the Lyric’s perfectly-suited stage. Lindsey McWhorter as Esther is the heart and soul of the action, sewing intimate apparel for a tapestry of clients,¬†including rich white women (a brittle, beautiful Amanda Ruggiero) and poor black¬†women of the night ¬†(the sexy Kris Sidberry) Esther¬†also has been sewing¬†her savings into a quilt so she can one¬†day¬†open a beauty parlor for¬†women of color. Esther herself is not considered a beauty (a stretch for the lovely actress!) and at 35 is husbandless.¬†But thousands of miles away, while¬†Esther works on her¬†delicate creations,¬†an island laborer named¬†George Armstrong (Brandon G. Green–excellent) is hard at work on the Panama Canal, and instigates a¬†correspondence–making a play for her heart. Nearer at hand but¬†even farther removed culturally is yet¬†another suitor,¬†the orthodox Jewish merchant Mr.¬†Marks (Nael Nacer–particularly moving here)¬†who sells Esther the cloth she uses, which is as¬†“fine and delicate”¬†as we know he thinks she is, and which becomes the literal¬†medium¬†of their¬†mutual touch. There are a few moments in the second act that I wish they’d taken more¬†time with, extracting more nuance. ¬†But Nottage’s script¬†and this fine cast (including Cheryl D. Singleton’s warm,¬†dignified¬†boarding house owner)¬†weave¬†a poignant¬†yarn of pioneering¬†women’s dreams into a thing of beauty:¬†a syncopated ragtime of promises–some ¬†empty, some realized,¬†some yet to be fulfilled. At LYRIC STAGE COMPANY through March 14!

¬†ZSC-The-Big-Meal-February-2015-052THE BIG MEAL: This is¬†a¬†really¬†entertaining and moving work by Dan LeFranc requiring perfectly timed interaction and sharp character work from the¬†dazzling ensemble over at Zeitgeist Stage Company– and they succeed on all counts!¬†THE BIG MEAL¬†is the meal of all meals– a tight 90 minute play that condenses all the meals of our lives, from first supper to last, served up over time¬†and peppered¬†with the all too¬†familiar tragicomic dynamics¬†that are the stuff–or stuffing–of family life.¬†The playwright¬†takes a big bite out of life lived¬†in one particular family, leaving us much to digest, all of it around¬†a table. There’s the¬†first date, leading to¬†family meals¬†with parental scrutiny and¬†awkward in-law encounters, weddings, inevitable kids, holidays, trysts, and funerals. In between, we witness¬†spats¬†and betrayals, philanderings, jealousies, expected and unexpected tragedies.¬†The play unspools¬†quickly into the future with “8 actors playing 26 characters over 5 generations covering 80 years in 90 minutes.” Pay attention– the characters and generations shift seamlessly;¬†they are¬†deftly sketched and closely observed, with¬†a waiter dutifully serving a last supper to those about to depart. It’s a dazzling dramatic feat of overlapping dialogue and feeling, very like the messy conversations that converge on¬†dinner–the way real life¬†takes shape. Meticulous direction by David Miller– an unseen presence in this midwestern but universal saga. ¬†At Zeitgeist Stage Company through March 7!