by Lynn Nottage
Rutgers Theater Company, 2012
Director: Michole Biancosino
Set Designer: Colleen Dolan
Costume Designer: Anne Liberman
Photography by Larry Levanti and Laura Williams
In 1909 Esther Mills navigates different worlds in New York City: the bourgeois who can afford her elegant intimate apparel, the working gals of the Tenderloin, and the middlemen that sells goods and wares. A mysterious love letter from Panama shakes up her world, and with a light heart she leaves spinsterdom behind. But Esther realizes the true depth of all the relationships woven around her, and fights to own her own life though it breaks her heart to do so.
This production focuses on a scenic design where the many locations of Nottage's play claim an equal space on the stage, and Esther weaves seamlessly between them. As such, the lighting balances both isolation and unification of the stage. The warmth of oil lamps and the romance of George's letters from Panama were some of the main inspirations for the lighting of act 1. This contrasts with act 2, where Esther's discovery of the truth leaves a colourless emptiness until she returns home.