Review: The Dresser

The latest in Shakespearean festival wear.

The latest in Shakespearean festival wear.

Photo courtesy of Resurrection Theatre

The Dresser, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $20. Resurrection Theatre, 1723 25th Street; (916) 491-0940; Through May 21.
Rated 5.0

Resurrection Theatre is located in the somewhat out-of-the-way California Theatre complex and, perhaps as such, there were only 30 people or so at the opening night for Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser.

This makes for something of an artistic tragedy because it features magnificent performances by two amazing actors, Shawn B O’Neal as Norman, a theater dresser, and Lew Rooker as Sir, the aging actor who is in no condition mentally or physically to perform King Lear.

The two are complemented by Karen Sandoval as Her Ladyship (Sir’s wife); Elizabeth Anne Springett as Madge, the no-nonsense stage manager who has been in love with Sir for years; and Meghan Cazadio as Irene, the starry eyed actress-wannabe/props mistress; as well as a number of supporting players.

But the play, directed by Paul Fearn, belongs to O’Neal and Rooker. O’Neal carries the show with the lion’s share of dialogue which reveals his 16-year dedication to and co-dependent relationship with Sir and the extent to which he will go to keep his charge well and performing on stage. O’Neal is simply wonderful.

Rooker has fewer lines, but Sir is a towering presence, an egotist with chiseled features, expressive eyes and a booming voice, even in his doddering state. He appears to have Parkinson’s disease, with symptoms such as shaking hands and inability to remember his first lines, or even which play he is supposed to be doing. It’s a mesmerizing performance, as he goes from helpless old man to prodigious actor ready to take on the world … and back again as he stumbles off stage.

It all makes for a spellbinding evening of theater that deserves a larger audience.