BWW Review: LET ME DOWN EASY is a Moving Contemplation of Health, Life, Sickness, and Death, at Profile Theatre
Profile Theatre has me hooked on Anna Deavere Smith. The format of showcasing one (or, in recent years, more than one) playwright allows us as audience members to enter the work, take a tour, and start to understand the themes more deeply. Profile Theatre presented three of Smith's pieces this year, and I count the two of them that I saw among the best shows of the season -- not just Profile's season, but the whole Portland season.
LET ME DOWN EASY is a series of 20 monologues in Smith's signature style: monologues constructed verbatim from interviews. The interviews are from a wide variety of people, some famous (Lance Armstrong, Eve Ensler, Ann Richards) and others not (a rodeo bull rider, a doctor, Smith's aunt).
If you're wondering why you'd want to go see a play that's just a bunch of interviews, it's exactly because it's a bunch of interviews. Smith's approach highlights the incredible insights people gain from having an up-close-and-personal experience with something -- in this case life, health, sickness, and death. The realness is what makes it so powerful.
LET ME DOWN EASY is running in repertory with Lisa Kron's WELL, and these two pieces play very well in conversation. The same six actors are in both shows, and if you see them both, you'll recognize the breadth of talent on the stage. LET ME DOWN EASY brought out the best in all of them, as if playing real people, rather than created characters, allowed them to tap into a deeper well. I was particularly moved by Eleanor O'Brien (especially in her role of a doctor at New Orleans' Charity Hospital), Jennifer Lanier, and Michael Mendelson (who made me cry more than once).
Overall, I loved LET ME DOWN EASY. I recommend it very, very highly. I'd also like to put in my vote for another Anna Deavere Smith season.
LET ME DOWN EASY runs through June 16. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Brud Giles