Sasha Sinclair’s one woman show, Self Portrait, is an interesting dramatic piece. An autobiography, it takes the audience from Sinclair’s early childhood in Virginia to her adolescence in North Carolina, and finally to her present day life as an artist living in DC.
The fourth wall goes up and down as Sinclair jumps from explaining her life to playing the various characters who’ve helped shape it. At times there was no physical variation between characters other than looking to the left for one, to the right for the other, but when Sinclair gets to Mrs. Pritchard, a distant relative who had a soft spot for her in her youth, she finally fully embodies the character.It’s some of her best work; charming, funny, snappy, honest. It is in those scenes that she seems most at ease.
When in character, she is sweet and humorous. The piece is most compelling when Sinclair shows her story, rather than tells it.
Sinclair’s life story is an interesting one; one worth telling, just not quite in this way. A great deal of her personal tragedies (the death of her parents, the lack of connection to her grandmother) is told with an “Oh well,” attitude. It would have been nice to see Sinclair care more deeply about many parts of her story.
by Sasha Sinclair
1021 7th Street NW 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20001
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Between some scenes, a projector spews out bullet pointed milestones on a screen at the back of the stage. It is disjointed. Some slides have timelines, broken down year by year, some just state a big event in Sinclair’s life. Some are funny, though one doesn’t really add much to the story. A few times, at the height of a dramatic moment, a commentary hashtag (#crickets, #truth) appears on the screen behind Sinclair. It was distracting and unnecessary.
There is a great deal of boldness, plenty of big gestures, but it is the small, quiet moments that feel the most truthful. The most beautiful part of the performance is the finale, when Sinclair reveals the self portrait that she painted. It is vibrant, moving, fluid, full of life. The painting is more enticing and poetic than the hour of stage work that precedes it, but makes every second spent in the theatre worth it.
Opening night nerves may be what caused Sinclair to lose lines and to rush, and though this show has its many hiccups, it contains some lovely moments. If you have a spare hour, seeing Self Portrait is not a terrible way to spend it.