Although ten years ago, Broadway plans for John Murrell's play, Memoir, never materialized, the biographical drama is now getting an east coast airing, courtesy of New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. The show opened Nov. 5 after starting previews Nov. 2 and concludes its scheduled run Nov. 21.
Memoir is a two-character piece about the life of legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt. Salome Jens plays the elderly Bernhardt, who is spending her last summer off the coast of Brittany. While writing her memoirs, she realizes her memory is fading, so she forces her valet, Pitou (played by Davis Hall), to play-act the notable personalities (such as Oscar Wilde) she's met in her life.
Jens, currently teaching acting at UCLA, enjoyed a long career on Broadway. In addition to being an original member of the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, where she appeared in the inaugural production of After the Fall, Tartuffe, Mary Stuart, and others, she performed leading roles in Broadway shows such as Far Country, Patriot for Me and Lie of the Mind. Jens' extensive work on television includes the eight-hour narration of The Great War for PBS. In 1997 she costarred Paula Prentiss in the world premiere of Casey DeFranco's Angel's Share at Los Angeles' Tiffany Theatre.
New Jersey Rep executive producer Gabor Barabas told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 29) the project came to NJRC through director Bill Martin. "It's a play he's always wanted to do," said Barabas. "It's a magnificent little masterpiece, and we hope we do it justice."
Now in its second year, New Jersey Repertory Company produces six plays a season and offers 50 Monday night playreadings a year. Barabas' wife, Suzanne Barabas, is the theatre's artistic director and co-producer of Memoir. For tickets and information on Memoir call (732)229-3166. NJRC, which has a company of more than 80 actors (more than half of them Equity), and a 65-seat theatre, is located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, NJ. Next up at NJ Rep, Jan. 6-30, is The Play's the Thing.
-- by David Lefkowitz