BWW Review: MEMOIR at Williamston Theatre is an Actor's Dream and Triumphs with Karen Sheridan and John Lepard
Mark Twain once said, "There are five kinds of actresses: bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses--and then there is Sarah Bernhardt." So, it is very fitting, then, that Williamston Theatre Director Mary Job cast the masterful Karen Sheridan as the "Divine Sarah" in Memoir by John Murrell.
Making its Michigan premiere at Williamston Theatre, Memoir is a more fictional than fact-based comedy about the legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt's attempt to finish her memoirs in her final year (Bernhardt died in 1923 at the age of 78). She enlists the hesitant help of her loyal assistant/secretary Georges Pitou (John Lepard) to recreate people and milestones from her past by acting out her memories on her veranda (Scenic Design by Bartley H. Bauer).
While Murrell's script doesn't really address Bernhardt's eccentricities, colorful past and the myriad of roles she played throughout her prolific career, it's a perfect two-person vehicle in which seasoned actors can shine--in this case, the perfect pairing of Sheridan and Lepard. Sheridan's performance is a tour de force and she excels in portraying the larger-than-life Bernhardt within the intimate setting of Williamston's theatre space.
For those who know Lepard in real life, they will be astounded by the complete makeup transformation of Lepard into the elderly Pitou. Throughout the play, Bernhardt orders Pitou to improvise various characters in Bernhardt's life, including her selfish and controlling mother who sends Bernhardt to live at a convent when she was 11 years old.
"Why can't I ever play a man?" Pitou begrudgingly asks Bernhardt throughout the course of the play until the final scene when she wants him to play Oscar Wilde.
"I would rather be a woman than to be that deplorable Little Billy goat of a man," Pitou exclaims.
Lepard accepts and more-than succeeds in the challenge of bringing the various characters in Bernhardt's fading mind to life. Sheridan's dominating Bernhardt offsets Lepard's more conservative, dutiful Pitou making their banter throughout the show priceless and fun to eavesdrop.
With only two more weeks left of the run, audiences should treat themselves to a night (or matinee) of two of the area's finest actors embracing and perfecting their craft.
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Memoir performances run at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings and at 3 p.m. Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 19. Conversation Sunday is on Aug. 12. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston, Mich. Order tickets online at www.williamstontheatre.org or by calling (517) 655-7469.