MEMOIR at Williamston Theatre is more than memorable. It is “a funny and moving valentine to one of theatre’s great legends,” as director Mary Job says. Even if you don’t know much/anything about Sarah Bernhardt, you will be impressed by the power and depth of these two characters, Sarah (Karen Sheridan) and her servant/caretaker/friend/foil Pitou (John Lepard.)
The script by John Murrell introduces us to Sarah, in her final years, harassing and charming Pitou into helping her write her Memoir — often by cajoling him into playing the roles of various others in her past life. This device opens up a wide range of emotions/experiences, brought to vibrant life by these two actors.
Karen is majestic, elegant, eloquent, overbearing yet captivating, with a wonderful voice and a commanding presence… it’s easy to imagine she was the superstar of her time — and fascinating to watch her consider her accomplishments/conflicts and face death. Did she invent herself through all her roles? Is she “consuming herself” like the sun?
As the always devoted, but sometimes exasperated Pitou, John Lepard demonstrates his wide range, playing the various roles in service of helping with the Memoir — yet retaining the underlying Pitou character in a subtle, layered performance. He is the practical and spiritual “other” that makes this play possible.
As always at Williamston, the technical aspects are outstanding: Bartley H. Bauer’s elegant “ironwork” patio, period costumes by Karen Kangas-Preston, a multitude of detailed period props by Michelle Raymond (including an antique, “working” gramophone with a record asst. stage manager Heath Sartorius told me has the correct record label on it.) In an intimate theatre like Williamston, the prop detail and set dressing conveys a lot because it’s so close and real.) Evocative lighting (Alex Gay) and sound (Julia Garlotte) ebbs and swells and changes as time passes and Sarah revisits scenes of her past.
Be sure to check out the assorted interesting quotes about Sarah Bernhardt that are featured in little boxes in the program.
Memoir continues through 8/19