Threads of a woman’s life in ‘Intimate Apparel’

Mia Ellis as Esther in “Intimate Apparel,” a play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage and presented by Trinity Repertory Company.
Mia Ellis as Esther in “Intimate Apparel,” a play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage and presented by Trinity Repertory Company.Mark Turek

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Lynn Nottage is an uncommonly versatile playwright who has ranged from the gut-wrenching drama of “Ruined’’ to the deftly pointed satire of “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark’’ to the turn-of-the-century social portraiture of “Intimate Apparel.’’

Whatever the genre, Nottage’s work is unified by a clear sense of artistic mission, notably her determination to investigate the lives of black women who might otherwise be relegated to the shadows of history. To the dramatization of their stories Nottage brings compassion, insight, and a firm belief that, to borrow a phrase, attention must be paid.

With “Intimate Apparel,’’ now at Trinity Repertory Company, Nottage offers a quietly affecting portrait of Esther, a black seamstress in 1905 New York who is trying to construct a life of fulfillment and meaning amid social and personal circumstances that make it an uphill struggle.

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