REP’s The Dresser Is (A Little Too) Intelligent
The Dresser tells the story of an overly-passionate stage actor in the midst of a King Lear performance
The Dresser is not an original from Repertory Philippines. Before it reached local shores, it was an acclaimed British play that showed both on West End and Broadway, and was then adapted to the screen with Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen. It goes without saying, but with names like that (and reputations like theirs), REP had a tall order to fill in choosing this as their third offering for 2019.
In the stage play, we’re introduced to Sir (played by Teroy Guzman), a thespian who arrives in a delusional state just a few hours before he’s set to perform King Lear. Right beside him, at his beck and call, is his loyal dresser Norman (played by Audie Gemora). Sir is difficult, his mind in and out of reality and fiction, confused between the past and present. And all this is happening as a war rages on around them.
Now that the story is out of the way, let’s get to the real stuff
The stage is a difficult landscape to maneuver. You have to think of so many aspects that will present itself properly to an audience, each member of which sees the platform from a different angle. And while I can’t say how the furthest seats interpreted the design, it was brilliant from where I was sitting.
A show’s set design is the first thing you see, whether the curtains are pulled as you step into the theater or not—it quite literally sets the stage for the rest of the play. The Dresser, in this aspect, shines. Completely efficient, Sir’s dressing room acts as the main setting, with quick scenes of behind-the-scenes moments outside of it. Needless to say, it was effective and the attention to detail did not go unnoticed.
Knowing that Audie Gemora and Teroy Guzman were going to star as Sir and Norman, my standard was already high. And when I learned that Loy Arcenas (Ang Larawan) was directing, my expectations grew even more. Have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
Gemora was effective, willingly eager to serve his on-stage master, his loyalty never faltering. His comedic moments were delivered at just the right times and it made this made the rather somber story a little more lighthearted. Meanwhile, Guzman was believable as the less-than-there Sir. It was an experience to watch the two exchange Shakespearean lines as they argued with and admired each other.
Sharing the stage with them were Missy Maramara as Her Ladyship, Tami Monsod as Madge, Justine Narciso as Irene, Jaime Del Mundo as Geoffrey and Jeremy Domingo as Oxenby. And while they each deserve their praise, I’ll take this moment to give a special shout out to Monson, who didn’t appear on stage often but definitely made her presence known each time she was.
What is a well-made film, a well-written book and an acclaimed play if the story doesn’t hold all the pieces together? While I’m not sure how common it is, this is always how I’ve felt about anything I consumed. You can show me beautiful cinematography, but it will never be enough to hold my attention. You can string beautiful words together, but it won’t make sense unless it does. And when it comes to plays, the same rule applies: If the story doesn’t touch me, then it doesn’t.
The premise of The Dresser is moving; there’s no doubt about that. A thespian that refuses—despite his mind leaving him and his closest supporters pushing him away—to give up the stage is passion at its height. And when Norman refuses to give up on him, I think it touched a little bit of all of us watching the show.
But the script, at times, is a little too intelligent. There are moments that the cast spews out Shakespeare’s lines so casually that you’re left to play a game of catch up. Where did that line come from, what does it mean? Was it from Macbeth, The Merchant Of Venice or something you had never studied in high school? This isn’t necessarily a fault; it’s what The Dresser is all about. But if you’re not versed in The Bard’s work, then it isn’t as enjoyable as it should be.
All this said, The Dresser is still worth the watch simply because it showcases—in the best possible way—what we can pull of if given the right avenue. And this has always been REP’s strength. Besides, The Dresser poses a challenge to us all, including the most academic of us.
The Dresser is showing all weekends from now until May 26, 2019. Head on over to TicketWorld to secure your seat.
Art Alexandra Lara