by Ronald Harwood
Directed by Cathy Kurz
September 10 - 26, 2021
First Central Congregational Church
Brigit Saint Brigit welcomes audiences back with its 29th season opener, Ronald Harwood's acclaimed and much-loved tale of a Shakespeare theatre troupe--traveling the outskirts of England trying to keep the Bard’s work and their craft alive, all while air raid sirens sound and German bombs fall. A heartbreaking, moving and humorous look "behind the curtain" exploring the lives actors, backstage players, and the theatre. READ MORE
"…a demented actor playing a demented king."
In the cramped corridor and dressing room of a provincial theatre, we meet Norman, the longtime dresser to an ancient, dilapidated Shakespearean actor of great renown (named Sir) who has recently been retrieved from hospital after being found undressed in the street. As Norman attempts to coax and cajole Sir into playing Lear, we discover both their lives depend on it. Through their interactions we discover that getting Sir onstage is more than Norman's "job," and underneath Sir's intermittent ravings, is something much more acute than madness.
Harwood’s play is fittingly beautiful on several levels but being set during WWII (and while the bombs fall) gives extra poignancy. That these actors feel compelled to prove the show must go on and that the audience, too, feels a need to maintain a sense of normalcy amid crises lends itself to the even a grander notion that tyranny can’t bomb the humanity out of a people unwilling to lose it.
At its heart, though, The Dresser is less lofty — it's funny and bittersweet and telling — as it reveals what theatre means to those who give their lives over to it, why anyone would do it, and the web of complicated relationships (including how the lead actor/manager of the troupe and the dresser are intertwined) that make a theatre tick.