Theater Review: LET ME DOWN EASY (Tour)

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by Tony Frankel on May 25, 2011

in Tours


Let Me Down Easy written and performed by Anna Deavere SmithWith Let Me Down Easy, Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful, engrossing and resonant solo outing, you may feel inspired to have a meaningful conversation with friends and family, as Ms. Smith has crafted a series of portrayals based on her own interviews that is at once scary, funny and life-affirming. On the surface, Smith’s focus seems to be the state of Health Care, but, ultimately, the play is about the many ways in which we confront pain and death.

Smith has cunningly spliced together twenty interviews, taking on the persona of each interviewee.  It is not mimicry or impersonation, but rather a remarkable facsimile of that person’s essence, achieved by employing a slight costume change, a nod of the head, or a soft dialect. Smith captured her subjects’ idiosyncrasies on film, such as gestures and vocal stutters, which she brilliantly incorporates into her interpretation of the interviewees – among them are athletes, ministers, artists, teachers, doctors, and politicians. Each story has an inherent question for us to ponder: Why do we put ourselves through so much pain? Why are we so preoccupied with aging? Why do we wait until disaster strikes to re-examine our lives? Smith does not attempt to answer these queries; instead, her patchwork of voices becomes a quilt of commonality.

Let Me Down Easy written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith

Director Leonard Foglia and scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez opened up the stage with the use of smoky-mirror panels and video cameras: as a hospital patient, Smith’s image is reflected in one mirror while a video feed projects her face on another.

For some, health care and death are overwhelming and terrifying subjects – Smith makes the subjects accessible by allowing us to ponder our own mortality with humor and grace.

photos by Joan Marcus

Let Me Down Easy
closed at San Diego REP on May 15, 2010
plays in Berkeley from May 28 –July 10, 2010
for tickets, call 888.4.BRT.TIX or visit Berkeley Rep

{ 1 comment }

Alan Mandell May 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

I agree with your review of Ms. Smith, but I felt that her points were made — and made well — so much that the whole would’ve been much better at 90 minutes. I also saw her in San Diego, and two hours without intermission was tough on the tuchas! I felt at that length it was repetitious. She’s wonderful actress who could use an editor.
I do love reading you and Harvey Perr.

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