Thursday, March 30, 2006 | The story centers on Esther (Lisa Renee Pitts), a 35-year-old black seamstress. Esther has worked tirelessly for years, sewing delicate intimate apparel for a variety of women: from rich white socialites to poor saloon-girls. Esther has saved the money she’s earned and dreams of using it to open a fine beauty salon. She feels lonesome because she has never married and she has no suitor, but she dreams of a better life for herself: man or no man.
Enter George Armstrong (Michael A. Sheppherd), a pen-pal who finds Esther through her church. Armstrong is working on the Panama Canal and sends letters full of blood, sweat and tears – and passion. Esther is enthralled with the heady stuff and uses her patrons to read his letters to her and write the letters back; she cannot read or write.
Esther eventually meets Armstrong in person, and the story continues as their relationship heads down a rocky road.
The story is simple and realistic. Esther interacts with the menagerie of people in her life who mostly don’t understand her down to earth values, but respect her and want to be around her. Mayme (Lisa H. Payton) is a down-on-her luck saloon girl/prostitute; Mrs. Van Buren (Lisel Gorell-Getz) is a rich, lonely wife in a bad marriage, Mrs. Dickson (the regal Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson) is the motherly woman who rents a room to Esther and Mr. Marks (Lance Arthur Smith) is the kind fabric salesman.
All of the actors are convincing and though the story starts slow, each actor skillfully makes their character grip you and pull you in so that you want to learn more about them and listen to what they have to say. Esther is simple, yet classy. Mayme is a joy to watch. Mrs. Van Buren is charismatic and entertaining. Mr. Marks is gentle and warm-hearted. George is restless and troubled. Their interactions are interesting and realistic.
At the end of the show, some audience members good-naturedly booed the “bad guy.” My companion turned to me and whispered, “that’s good acting.”