The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker Fringe 2024

Adelaide Fringe. Holden Street Theatres, The Arch. 15 Feb 2024

She was not a very nice person. She was an irredeemable drunk, in fact. With a  seriously bitchy bent. She used to quip that she’d start the day by brushing her teeth and sharpening her tongue.
Nonetheless, they gave this New Yorker a plum job as a drama critic to which end she worked at both the prestigious publications of Vogue and Vanity Fair. It didn’t hurt that she was born a Rothschild. Nor that these were days before critics had to tiptoe through the minefields of potential litigation. Mind you, she did write some fine poems, plays, screenplays, and book reviews and she was staunchly a part of the anti-Nazi league and even, under the McCarthy era, a suspected communist.  She knew everybody who was anybody but left her literary estate to a man she had never met, Martin Luther King. 


She was a tiny, feisty, caustic, woman who adorned the world with a litany of one-liners which have never lost currency. "You can lead a horticulture but you can never make her think"; “Men seldom make passes at women in glasses”; "That woman speaks eighteen languages but can never say ‘no' in any of them" and, for her tombstone: “It was against her better judgement”.
And so Mrs Parker comes to Adelaide in the form of American actress Margot Avery.


Avery plays Dorothy as from the writer's collected The Portable Dorothy Parker and, sitting in a comfortable armchair by pleasant lamplight on stage, she sifts through her famous works, reading them out with a caustic commentary to an invisible companion while slugging down drink after drink.  It is 1943 but she drinks “brown”, which is a lingering reference to the era of prohibition


Annie Lux is author of this well-wrought manifestation of Dorothy Parker, her life and works.  It is a good script, peppered with those famous lines. It has already been a popular Fringe one-hander, having won a Best Show in Pittsburgh’s Fringe in 2017.

American director Lee Costello joins the team in Adelaide, and like Avery is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in LA.

The show is presented in Holden Street Theatre’s intimate The Arch wherein the sightlines are superb.
At the Media Day performance, however, audibility was a stretch for some, albeit the guffaws were plentiful.


Dorothy Parker was not a comedienne and nor is Avery. This is a narrative show, a bio-play and it ranges through some very interesting American literary history rich with Parker's personal anecdotes about Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway among others.
It’s well worth a look and an attentive listen. One’s chuckles are accompanied by a lovely learning curve.

Samela Harris

When: 15 Feb to 17 Mar

Where: Holden Street Theatres