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Anna Deavere Smith: The Ultimate Impressionist


Anna Deavere Smith is bringing her newest one-woman show, Let Me Down Easy, to the Lyceum Theatre. Onstage April 27 through May 15, it was conceived and written by, and will be performed by Smith, an admired actress, widely published author, teacher, and — yes — a comic. She has the timing of a stand-up comedienne,  the keen observational skills of a journalist, and has played feature roles in The American President, The Human Stain, Rent, and Rachel Getting Married. Recently, she was the subject of PBS’ Bill Moyer’s Journal. Her sense of irony and comic absurdity feed her curiosity about people, and she transforms before audiences as she takes on various persona.


Explaining the process of creating the current play, Smith says, “I interviewed over 300 people on three continents.” Those interviews generated the characters of more than 20 people who inhabit the play. The portrayals “are all drawn from the words of people who speak to the vulnerability of the human body, the resilience of the spirit, the price of care.” Smith also notes, “The Let Me Down Easy journey began when I was invited to be a visiting professor at the Yale School of Medicine. My first thought was, ‘Really, me, a clown, to create something in such a serious elite environment?’ I walked away from the experience with an increased compassion for doctor and patient alike. The stories stayed in my heart.”


Thanks to San Diego REP, La Jolla Playhouse, and Vantage Theatre for bringing Smith’s play to S.D. It’s a big deal to have this brilliant woman in our midst. She’s a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, a winner of multiple Drama Desk Awards, and has twice been nominated for Tony Awards as both actress and playwright. Let Me Down Easy was touted by Entertainment Weekly as one of the top ten productions of 2009. The New York Times said it so well and succinctly when it described Smith as “the ultimate impressionist: she does people’s souls.”    DARLENE G. DAVIES


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