Act 1 DeSales University Theatres graceful production of Lynn Nottages "Intimate Apparel," is painfully honest, heartrending and ultimately still hopeful.

The touching drama is on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts in Center Valley through Oct. 8.

Taking place in New York in 1905, 35-year-old Esther, played with endless stoic strength by Maya Marino Cappello, is a black woman who has been working as a seamstress for 18 years. While other women around her marry and leave, Esther sews lingerie for a variety of clients from wealthy white housewives to prostitutes. She saves money in a quilt and dreams of opening a beauty parlor where black women would be treated like ladies.

Cappellos Esther, keeps her emotions tightly in check as, against all odds, she dreams of love and marriage. intimate apparel

When George, a Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal, begins to write to her, Esther thinks she may have a chance for happiness.

When he proposes through one of his letters, Esther accepts.

Capello captures both Esthers strength and vulnerability. She gives Esther a measure of dignity even as she is betrayed and brings the audience along for the ride.

Gabrielle Mosely is warmly likable as Mrs. Dickson, Esthers black landlady, who genuinely cares about her charge even as she offers a concerned warning.

Two woman for whom Esther sews have become close friends.

Mrs. Van Buren is a bored white society woman, played with a desperate longing by Abagaile Ruger. Rugers Mrs. Van Buren is unhappy in her marriage and yearns to be a little wild but knows she has

limited choices.

CaSandra Kay plays Mayme, a happy-go-lucky prostitute, who plays the piano and dreams of a music career. Kays Mayme is practical and good-hearted, even as her hopes for love evaporate.

Esther bonds with the gentle Mr. Marks, an orthodox Jewish immigrant played with tentative fondness by Christian Tuffy, over the beautiful yard goods he sells. However, the cultural differences between the two means the obvious attraction between them will never be allowed to amount to anything.

Jabari Williams George is appealing as a hard-working laborer looking for love through letters, but descends into frustration and disillusionment.

Director Akeem Davis has an appropriately light touch with the poignant material.

Scenic designer Jenna Snyder has created a simple but effective set consisting of a bed, a dressing table, a piano and a sewing machine, aided by sensitive lighting by Eric T. Haugen. Costume designer Leigh Paradise fashioned eye-catching period costumes, including undergarments.

There are two talk back performances with the cast on Oct. 1 and 3.

The Oct. 7 performance will feature open captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing and audio descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. Tickets are half price for patrons using these special services on this date. Call box office Manager Eric Pierson at 610-282-1100, ext. 1820, for information.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 4-7; 2 p.m. Oct. 1 and 8; and 9:45 a.m. Oct. 3.

Tickets are $23 for adults and $21 for students and seniors Tuesday through Thursday; and $27 for adults and $25 for students and seniors Friday through Sunday.

For information, call 610-282-3192go to