One of the wonderful things about Orlando Fringe is the opportunity to experience different types of theater, from elaborately staged musicals to ribald comedies to mime, etc. Sarah and Oscar
would be most at home under the heading "museum theater." Museum theater, or educational theater, is used to take historic or other unpalatable information and activate it, breathe life into it, arousing the curiosity of its audience; sadly, Sarah and Oscar
fails to accomplish this.
Putting the two notorious personalities of Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde on one stage is an intriguing premise, but the script -- a collaboration between the show’s actors, Marion Jeffrey and Mark Lyon -- is decidedly unbalanced. We hear plenty about Bernhardt’s life and career, while much of the Wilde material is reduced to his familiar -- albeit always brilliant -- quotes. At times, Lyon actually seems downright bored waiting for his next line.
Jeffrey, who also directed the piece, turns in a strong performance as Bernhardt; her voice and her accent even approximate existing recordings of the legendary actress. Lyon, on the other hand, makes no attempt at an accent. In fact, there is very little about his manner or delivery that recalls famed writer and accidental activist Wilde. At least stick Wilde’s trademark green carnation in your lapel, for fucksake.
Despite the fact that Bernhardt and Wilde were contemporaries, and reference knowing each other in the piece, they never interact with each other in the play. Instead the material is two intertwined monologues -- Jeffrey speaks, then Lyon speaks, and so on -- delivered largely in a passive voice. It appears the playwrights have tried to make their script historically accurate to the point of eschewing nearly all artistic license, which is too bad because a conversation between Wilde and Bernhardt -- even fictionalized -- could set the world on fire.
Sarah and Oscar
Length: 60 minutes
Price: $10 (+service charge)
Disc: FA | FV | STU | SR | Unemployed
Rating: 13 +