Anna Deveare Smith has one Midwest stop on her Let Me Down Easy tour. I attended opening night for Let Me Down Easy by Anna Deavere Smith at the Lincoln Theatre, presented by The Wexner Center. You may not immediately recognize Anna Deavere Smith by name, but I’m sure that most will recognize her face. She has been a prominent cast member of The West Wing and Nurse Jackie. Smith has also appeared in a few films over the past few years that you may recognize (The Kingdom and Rent).
While her silver screen resume may be respectable, Smith truly shines in the world of theatre. What she is best known for is her “journalistic theatre” or “documentary theatre” approach to being on stage. Anna Deavere Smith interviewed 40 individuals and is bringing 20 of their stories to the stage of the Lincoln Theatre.
Let Me Down Easy plays with the values of health care, mortality, and the perspective of the human body, all in 95 minutes. When the lights dim and the curtain falls back and Smith appears to the stage, you expect to hear Smith, but you don’t. You begin to hear the stories and lives of individuals from across the country, through the mouth of Anna Deavere Smith.
I was taken through a journey at the Lincoln Theatre. The recently renovated Lincoln Theatre sits beautifully in the King-Lincoln district and became a perfect, but unique experience for Anna Deavere Smith to perform her off-Broadway hit. As I sat in my extremely comfortable chair waiting for Smith to take stage, I began to wonder about how lucky I was to be able to see such a show. Anna Deavere Smith’s performances are critically acclaimed and this off-Broadway hit has just one Midwest destination, here in Columbus, Ohio. Thank you, Wexner Center. By the time that my goosebumps had finally calmed, the show began.
I was at first alarmed to hear so much of Anna Deavere Smith’s voice in the characters. I felt as if there were no techniques being used, to portray the dynamics of the character’s voices. My first feelings were then thrown out the window when Smith, repeated the dialogue of Brent Williams, a Rodeo Bull Rider from Idaho. I began to feel and empathize with a man that sat on the stage, but looked like Anna Deavere Smith. Then it hit me. Even if Smith’s voice sounded identical to the individuals in which they portrayed, it would be secondary to the euphemisms, pauses and body language each individual has. That is what Anna does perfectly in Let Me Down Easy. You’re able to imagine all 20 characters without ever seeing their face, because you don’t have to. You have Anna Deavere Smith.
Ms. Smith’s journey continued throughout the night with stories of injury, illness and the way our human bodies and spirit play vital roles in our health. The last portion of the performance is the worth the ticket price alone. Smith sat down with men and women who are staring death in the eye. Some of the people I heard were former Texas Governor Anna Richards and and the director of an orphanage in South Africa and the monologue he told a young girl who was dying from AIDS.
While hearing these stories and words come from Anna’s mouth, my stomach began to turn and I empathized with every word that was said. I could barely believe the words that were coming from her mouth. As each story came to an end, I realized that these are the stories of real people. The stories are not fabricated.
As the show moves on, most of the characters can be considered celebrities among us. Characters including Lance Armstrong, Sally Jenkins and my favorite character, Brent Williams. The individuals may not be who we can relate to on a professional level, but you learn as the show continues that you share the same mortality and human condition that they do. The “larger than life” individuals gave Smith a very, personal step into their lives and Smith depicts them exquisitely.
Let me Down Easy by Anna Deavere Smith will be performing at the Lincoln Theatre until Sunday, February 27th.
Fri, Feb 25–Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 8:00PM
Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 2:00PM
Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 2:00PM
$48 – General Public
$20 – Students
$42 – Members of the Wexner Center
You can purchase tickets online at Ticketmaster or by contacting the Wexner Center ticket office at (614)–292–3535
Jeremy Taylor is a contributing writer to Columbus Underground, focusing on all topics related to cinema, theatre and the arts. You can read more of Jeremy Taylor’s writing on his blog: Columbus Reel.
Need a little more nudging to go? Check out this video the Wexner Center put together: