REP’s ‘The Dresser’: A play within a must-see play

If there’s such a thing as Inception, which highlights getting into numerous dreams, Repertory Philippines’ (REP) The Dresser would be one that I’d label as “theaterception” as it puts the spotlight on stories of thespians about to stage a play for a real-life play at the Onstage Theater of Greenbelt 1.

Teroy Guzman in REP’s ‘The Dresser’

For the third play of its 2019 season, Repertory Philippines takes audiences behind the scenes of the theater, exposing its vivid inner workings and hidden secrets until May 26, 2019. It explores both the glamorous and the drastic sides of a thespian’s life, brilliantly depicted by their lead stars, backed by impeccable writing and direction. Watching the play feels like a real-life peek into the lives of actors who have given so much time and effort to their craft.

Audie Gemora (standing), Teroy Guzman (seated), and Tami Monsod (right) in ‘The Dresser’.

The Dresser is a British play (so expect Filipino actors with notable British accents!) that has been staged on both West End and Broadway. Written by Academy Award winner Sir Ronald Harwood, the play has a strong pedigree, having been interpreted by the best actors and directors around the world. In case the title sounds familiar, it’s because it has also been adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen.

(Left to Right) Audie Gemora, Missy Maramara, Teroy Guzman, Jaime Del Mundo, Jeremy Domingo in ‘The Dresser’.

To give you a peek at what it’s about, the story follows the life of Sir – a troubled thespian, and his loyal dresser Norman. The Dresser takes place during a wartime production of King Lear. Sir arrives on set in a delusional state, while Norman does all he can to ensure that the show goes on, much to the disapproval of the company, who have had enough of Sir’s erratic behavior. As the theater fills up and an air-raid commences, Sir steps onstage as Lear while the company crosses its fingers. Meanwhile, Norman and the other characters question whether their dedication to the theater—and even the people they love—is worth the hardship and heartbreak.

REP’s ‘The Dresser’, starring (L-R) Audie Gemora, Missy Maramara, and Tami Monsod.

The Dresser stars legendary veterans Audie Gemora and Teroy Guzman. These two thespians’ experience with Shakespeare make them ideal fits for the layered script, which celebrates classical theater. Making his REP directorial debut is Loy Arcenas, whose movie musical Ang Larawan, an adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, won Best Picture at the 43rd Metro Manila Film Festival.

Cast photo!

Don’t miss Gemora play the gentle Norman to Guzman’s tormented Sir! Joining them in the cast are Missy Maramara as Her Ladyship, Tami Monsod as Madge, Justine Narciso as Irene, Jaime Del Mundo as Geoffrey, and Jeremy Domingo as Oxenby. This production also marks Guzman and Maramara’s first time stepping into the REP stage.

Audie Gemora deserves a standing ovation for his acting here. The final part got me emotional as I’ve personally been in his shoes in terms of saying goodbyes.

Albeit only having less than 10 actors on stage, The Dresser was successful in leaving a mark in our hearts – a mark of renewed love for both the theater and the actors who have devoted so much to continue doing their art despite the booming success of movies and digital content. Hearing how the actors addressed questions about their craft was also heartwarming for someone like me who continue to admire people behind the curtain.

Two thumbs up for the play and a standing ovation for the cast!

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