Costume Designer Brings The Gift To ‘Laughter’

Kimberly Patterson as Joanna Lyppiatt in Present Laughter (photo by Mickey Elliot)

As our gift from Little Fish Theatre to you this holiday season, we’re presenting a classic Noel Coward farce, Present Laughter, and it’s getting great reviews.

The actors are getting lots of kudos, and they deserve them. Some folks behind the scenes are also getting kudos, such as the costume designer, Adriana Lambarri. Adriana is fairly new to Little Fish, having started with Beyond Therapy at the end of last summer. She’s designed for every show since but she sure didn’t expect it to turn out that way. In fact, she didn’t even start her career as a costume designer.

Adriana has a degree in fashion design and worked in the fashion industry for more than six years, but she felt a need to push her creativity a bit more. So when some friends decided to produce a small independent horror film, she begged them to let her design the costumes. The costumes turned out fine – and she liked it – so she designed for some more independent films. Through that work she met some people who also did theatre, so she started designing for the stage, as well.

She ended up at Little Fish when her friend Drew Shirley (you’ve seen him in Shakespeare by the Sea and Bach at Leipzig) asked her to design the costumes for No Exit, which he was directing for our mid-week series. (Fun fact about Drew: he was the assistant director of that first independent horror film that started Adriana in costume design.)

She showed up on audition day at the theatre to help Drew, where she met Stephanie Coltrin, managing director of Little Fish, who talked her into doing the costumes for Beyond Therapy, as well. (Fun fact: she borrowed a lot of the costumes for Beyond Therapy from her parents.) That’s how it works at Little Fish. You get so much more than what you sign up for. I guess we didn’t scare her off, because she went on to design for Twisted, Spooky, Creepy, and finally, Present Laughter.

Present Laughter presented quite a challenge. There are 11 characters in period costumes that need to reflect the upper-class status of those characters, with multiple costume changes for each. Adriana had to buy lots of expensive looking period clothing, cheap. Exactly how did she do it?

First, she went to director Jim Rice for his vision. His vision was The Thin Man. She did some research to get ideas then went shopping. Thrift stores are always the first stop, but in this case even some of the thrift shops were too pricey for her budget. And not everything could be acquired for a couple of dollars at a thrift store.

For some special items, she went shopping with the actors to make sure everything fit and also fit with the director’s vision. In particular, the character of Joanna Lyppiatt (played by Kimberly Patterson) makes a grand entrance wearing a stunning evening gown. Adriana looked at the remaining budget, and thought, How am I going to make this work? She and Kimberly scoured the vintage clothing stores in Hollywood and Burbank, and finally, late in the afternoon of a long Sunday of shopping, the heavens parted, angels sang, and the perfect dress descended into her hands. To be honest, it’s not an evening gown, so, as Adriana puts it, she had to be a bit of a MacGyver to make it the glamorous statement the script required.

Present Laughter runs through December 15. It’s funny, the clothes are beautiful, and it’s the perfect antidote to all that holiday stress. And if you like Adriana’s costume designs, you’ll get to see some more when Pick of the Vine opens in January. Tickets for both are available on our website, spt