In her one-character "Bernhardt," Sarah Ben Breathnach attempts to follow a 19-year-old actress, talking to herself, through the loss of one job and ambitions to find another. Taking 80 minutes, Breathnach has extended the situation's dramatic potential by at least 76 minutes and reveals she grasps little about dramatic writing.
For no evident reason this production has been chosen as the second offering for ASTA's new Capitol Hill Theater, 507 8th St. SE, which opened with Kaufman and Connelly ("Merton of the Movies") and his season will go on to Noel Coward, John M. Synge and Artur Schnitzler.
Not suprisingly, the playwright turns Cassandra for some of the Divine Sarah's long, subsequent acting career.A French tone, of sorts, is attempted with "avees" and illusions to "ze odeon." Director Dona Cooper permits haphazard variations on Bernhardt's first name: "sara," "SA-rah" and, more like it "sa-RAH."
One cannot fault performer Madeleine Potter for courage and memory work. Immensely assured and with a button, rather than Bernhardt's aquiline, nose she assumes a hair style strikingly like the Bernhardt photographs and at appropriate times extends or clasps her hands as the old pictures show.
In her line-speaking Potter does some highly peculiar tricks. She begins each sentence with marvelous clarity, but afterwards comes an incomprehensible mix of verbiage. This is quite a new approach to already windy lines, and I pray it does not catch on, fascinating as it becomes to those trying to stay awake through Breathnach's torpid non-events.
Production details of set, make-up, lighting and the new theater itself are superior to the script. Performances are Wednesday through Sundays at 8 p.m.