by Steve Desroches
It’s 15 minutes to curtain and the star of the show is being a drama queen when he’s suppose to be preparing to play King Lear. But his prop crown isn’t polished to his satisfaction, he continually asks in panic what his first line is, and never mind that the air raid sirens are roaring as the Luftwaffe begins to bombard the English city of Plymouth while the audience assembles in the theater rather than the bomb shelter to see this legendary Shakespearean actor take the stage. While there is nothing he can do about the bombs falling out the sky it is up to the dresser to prevent that night’s production from bombing. It’s all up to him to, as the British say, keep everyone calm and carrying on.
The newly formed Provincetown Theater Community Project presents its sophomore effort of its inaugural season at the Provincetown Theater with this delightful and quirky play by Ronald Harwood. The South African playwright brilliantly captures the sly humor and subtle savagery of British humor, even in times of great peril. The story and the action lie between the lines of the dense dialogue. The loudest message is in what the characters don’t say rather than what actually comes out of the stiff, British-upper lip. And the cast of community players does an admirable job bringing the characters to life in this story of love and life, both on and off stage, set during the bleak years of the Blitz.
The hallmark of this production, and perhaps the vision of what the Provincetown Theater Community Project will be, is that it gives the opportunity for cast and crew to pursue and present what they are best at, providing room to experiment and grow. Bragan Thomas plays Norman, the dresser to Sir, a grand English stage actor played by Clyde Shelby Mellert. The pair create a compelling repartee, as do Judith Partlow as Her Ladyship, Jo Brisbane as Madge, and Edwidge Yingling as Irene, providing contrast to the way the self-absorbed actor deals with women, love, and lust, all the while paying close attention to the Easter eggs hidden throughout the script about this emotional steamroller of a man surrounded by people who love him while he loves only himself.
The costume design by Phoebe Otis and the set design and construction by Tristan DiVincenzo and James Massaro, respectively, are also shining examples of how this PTCP production illuminates the talents of the community, all of which have been ably shepherded by director Anthony Jackman into what is a theater lover’s theatrical performance and an ambitious, non-traditional choice for a Cape Cod theater where the risk is part of the reward.
The Dresser runs at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St. Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through April 24. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors and students) and are available at the box office and online at provincetowntheater.org. For more information call 508.487.7487.