Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Port City Playhouse The Dresser

By • Apr 13th, 2008 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of Port City Playhouse’s production of The Dresser [MP3 5:21 2.4MB].

The Dresser
Port City Playhouse
Lee Center for the Performing Arts, Alexandria, VA
$15/$13 Seniors and Juniors
Through April 26th

Laura: This is the ShowBizRadio review of The Dresser, performed by Port City Playhouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Mike and I saw the performance on opening night Friday, April 11, 2008.

Mike: I didn’t get this show. I liked lots of small bits of it. But I just didn’t quite warm up to it. I think the acting by the two principle performers, Donald Neal and Matthew Randall, did a pretty good job, but the actual story itself I just didn’t quite get into.

Laura: Overall I thought this was a pretty solid performance. I thought all of the actors did well. However I came away feeling depressed and sad.

Mike: The Dresser is a play by Ronald Harwood. It tells the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep his charge’s live together. The show take place backstge at a touring company’s production of King Lear during the Blitz in Britain.

Laura: The role of Norman, Sir’s dresser, was played by Matthew Randall. He gave a good performance and had a good relationship with Sir. They had some pretty good lines as they bantered back and forth. Norman was feisty. He had some good comedy lines. I thought he was also very protective of Sir and very loyal to him.

Mike: Norman did have an interesting scene late in the show with Irene, played by Elizabeth Keith. Irene had spent some time alone with Sir behind a closed, locked door. Of course Norman wanted to know what happened while they were together. That was the only time we saw a lot of strong anger and strong emotion coming from Norman. Otherwise I felt he was kind of flat and gosippy.

Sir was played by Donald Neal. He was the aging star of the show and carried the efforts of William Shakespere forward into the modern century. Donald Neal really gave a good performance. He would go from not knowing who he was or where he was all the way up to becoming King Lear. Watching Donald Neal changing from a sad old man into King Lear, his whole persona changed once the costuming and the makeup was applied was amazing to see. It really did not appear to be the same person.

Laura: I, too, thought that Donald Neal gave a good performance. It was fun watching the change in him. When he finally got his makeup on and was ready to go on. He had those last minute jitters and then something happened and he sprang to life and went on stage and gave a strong performance.

Mike: He delivered one of the greatest lines ever heard in a staged production when talking about theater critics. Sir had the line, “The critics? No, I have nothing but compassion for them. How can I hate the crippled, the mentally deficient, and the dead?

The entire show took place backstage at the theater in England. It was split into three different areas: The dressing room of Sir, the hallway, and the wing of the stage where King Lear was performed. Most of the action took place in Sir’s dressing room. It was fairly sparsely furnished. There were a few old posters from past performances and productions. Otherwise it felt just right with the dim lighting. I really like how the hallway was designed. It was simply a section of the upstage area set behind a scrim. They used lighting to emphasise the area. There were only a few scenes performed up there, although you could see the characters coming and listening at the door of Sir’s dressing room.

Then there was the action in the wings of the theater. It was very sparse. There was a small area for Madge, the stage manager, to do her managing from, as well as some special effects equipment for the sound effects that happened during King Lear. That was it. It worked really well. You could see the edge of the stage that they would be going onto. Through the good use of lighting you were able to very easily not worry about seeing the other areas of the set. The set was designed by Marian Holmes and Robert Kraus.

Laura: I also thought the costumes for The Dreser were good. The Costume Designer was Farrell Hartigan. It was interesting at the opening of the show, everyone came in wearing their period street clothes. Once the play began, you had Her Ladyship in her attire and King Lear in his. I thought it looked really neat.

Mike: I really liked the sound for the show. Sound was designed by David Correia, assisted by Willim Buchanan and Keith Bell. There were numerous sound effcts throughout the show including the ones we could see for the King Lear scene. But also things like the tea kettle, the air raid sirens. I think they all worked together really well and fit really well into the show.

Laura: The Dresser is playing through Saturday April 26th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and a performance on Tuesday the 22nd at 8 pm at the Lee Center for the Performing Arts in Alexandria, Virginia. The show ran approximately two hours and ten minutes with one intermission.

Mike: We’d love to her your thoughts about this show. Feel free to leave a comment on our website. We’d also like to invite you to join our free mailing list so you can can stay informed with what’s happening in community theater in the DC region.

Laura: And now, on with the show.


  • Her Ladyship: Angela Cannon
  • Madge: Gayle Grimes
  • Irene: Elizabeth Keith
  • Geoffrey: Jonathan Marget
  • Sir: Donald Neal
  • Norman: Matthew Randall
  • Oxenby: Cal Whithurst


  • Producer: Marcus Dunn, Robert Kraus
  • Director: Rosemary Hartman
  • Stage Manager: Amanda Helms
  • Set Design: Marion Holmes, Robert Kraus
  • Set Construction: Robert Kraus
  • Assisted by: Pam Angelus, Erika Dunn, Hannah Dunn, Marcus Dunn, Norah Dunn, Dick Schwab, Cal Whitehurst
  • Painting: Robert Kraus
  • Assisted by: April Lee, Marcus Dunn
  • Set Dressing: Donna Reynolds
  • Properties: Donna Reynolds
  • Assisted by: Darla Goddard, Mary-Beth O’Donnell
  • Lighting Design: Alice Lee
  • Master Electrician: Dick Schwab
  • Assisted by: Leslie Buckles & “The Roomates”
  • Sound Design: David Correia
  • Assisted by: William Buchanan, Keith Bell
  • Costume Design: Farrell Hartigan
  • Wardobe: Margaret Snow
  • Hair and Make-up Design: Bette Williams
  • Language Coach: Carol Strachan
  • Graphic Design: Eleni Aldridge
  • Playbill: Jennifer Lyman
  • Photographer: Douglas Olmsted
  • Publicity: Cal Whithurst
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