BWW Reviews: THE DRESSER at Everyman Theatre - Simply Spectacular
I was so excited last year when I first noticed that Everyman Theatre would be producing the play THE DRESSER. I recall with reverence the 1983 film which starred Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney. (I was fortunate to see these amazing actors perform in London in the play ART along with Alfred Molina). It was the story that fascinated me. The incredible backstage life of actors, stage managers, and dressers, something not seen often. Especially the work of the dresser, the individual responsible for an actor's costumes. But thanks to Ronald Harwood's tale, we the audience finally get the chance to see what happens backstage that makes actors tick.
The play is set in the English countryside in 1942 when the British were nightly suffering from constant bombardment from Germany. I was reminded of the 2005 film "Mrs. Henderson Presents" starring Dame Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins which dealt with the true story of London's Windmill Theatre which refused to stop performances (which featured nudity) while the bombs continued to fall.
Scenic Designer James Fouchard has done a masterly job in establishing a set which begins as a backstage dressing room stage right with the stage curtain facing the audience stage left. While the actors perform towards the British audience, the dressing room retracks to reveal the entire back stage which includes all sorts of sound effects including a wind machine and two timpani for thunder.
Everyman Theatre Resident Sound Designer Chas Marsh is responsible for the realistic bomb explosions which the audience can literally feel in their seats.
Towson University Costume Design Professor Julie Potter has spot on clothing for the actors on and off-stage. This is only her second Everyman show and she deserves to return.
Director Derek Goldman has assembled a stellar cast and has them running smoothly. I had the privilege of observing the "first reading" and was astonished at how wonderful the entire cast did without make-up, costumes, and a set. So I was prepared to observe something special and I was not disappointed.
THE DRESSER is simply spectacular in large part to the two leads, Bruce Randolph Nelson and Carl Schurr. Schurr plays the character "Sir" who has had an illustrious career and is about to perform KING LEAR for the 227th time. He has never missed a performance. But, as the play opens, Sir is missing and the possibility exists the show will NOT go on. Finally, he arrives backstage one hour prior to show time from a hosptial where was suffering from exhaustion. He's dishelved. Madge the stage manager (the always wonderful Megan Anderson) sees Sir and is ready to pull the plug on the production. Deborah Hazlett plays Sir's leading lady on and off the stage and agrees the show must not go on. It is only Nelson's Norman the dresser, who knows he can get Sir back to himself so the show will proceed. He probably performs this function every evening before Sir's performance, doing this thankless job for 16 years. Will Norman succeed and get Sir on his feet to perform. Ofcourse.
One of the highlights of the cast is Emily Vere Nicoll who plays "Irene" a young ingenue who is thrilled to be on the same stage with Sir. There's a memorable scene between Irene and the bitter aging actor who remembers so well what it was like to be young and amorous.
Wil Love has a cute cameo as Geoffrey Thornton who plays Lear's fool in a costume obviously made for a smaller man. James Whalen is Oxenby who is a woundered veteran fresh from the war and wears a leg brace who refuses at first to help with the sound effects crew but later changes his mind for the sake of the theater. Rounding out the Shakespearean ensemble are James Bunzli, Will Cooke, Benjamin Lovell, and Frank Tesoro Vince.
You have until March 23 to see this incredible production. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.
A new restaurant has opened next to the theater, Forno Restaurant and Wine Bar at 17 N. Eutaw St. Call 443-873-9427 or visit wwfornobaltimore.com.