In Self-Portrait of a Sinner, playwright/performer Veronique MacRae seeks to show how the sinner destroys other people as well as herself. Admirable in flashes, the solo piece is impaired by uneven writing.
Using a combination of recorded interviews, a vivid soundscape, and MacRae’s commanding stage presence, Self-Portrait certainly has the makings of a powerful one person rumination on the sinful nature of humans. The recorded interviews, MacRae later explains, were meant to offer a variety of perspectives on the nature of sin. From what I saw, the two speakers (not identified) really only covered the obvious and did not make cogent points about the subject at hand.
There is certainly no lack of commitment on the part of Ms. MacRae to illuminate her characters. Her focus never wavered, even as technical glitches plagued the performance halfway through, making any additional sound or video useless. (I trust that was a one time snafu.)
Composed of personal stories inspired from her own life and experiences drawn from others, Self-Portrait introduces a new character to show each of the seven deadly sins. The type of homeless person one could meet outside on the streets of Washington, a covetous minister’s wife, and a spoiled celebrity were used to bring to life gluttony, greed, and sloth. Through each vignette, MacRae’s transformation was with simple costume changes and her vivid characterizations.
Self-Portrait of a Sinner
by Veronique MacRae
at Caos on F
923 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Sloth was personified by a prolific writer whose apathy leads her to toss countless notebooks of her poetry and prose aside. She blames herself for her sister’s suicide, a death that could have been prevented, perhaps, by encouraging words from the lazy scribe.
The biggest misstep in the piece came when the green-eyed monster of jealousy rears its head and blinds a woman so much that she stabs her lover only to find out he was innocent of any suspicion. Maniacally laughing while wielding a kitchen knife, MacRae tipped the scale over to melodrama while, by the end, managing to tip it back to reality.
The finest marriage of writing and performance in Self-Portrait was the monologue focusing on envy in which a young interior designer tells a story reminiscent of “All About Eve.” MacRae’s character envied her mentor to the point she stole her career, her boyfriend and even her life.
Addressing the audience at the end of the play, MacRae said she hoped to provoke conversation with her examination of sin, first prepared as part of a graduate degree at Duke University. It certainly should. Giving some attention to the interviews and their contributions as different points of view on sin and sinning, will help bring the self-portrait into stronger focus.