Last night I was invited to attend and blog about “Let me Down Easy” a dramatic piece by Anna Deavere Smith which was put together for the American Repertory Theatre (ART) in Cambridge. This was a great blogging event that was put together by Sooz. I believe that this was an attempt to reach a larger audience about the arts. I applaud ART’s efforts and thank everyone involved for an evening of theater.
I do not consider myself a theater expert. I have seen some plays and other theatrical pieces growing up. I tend to watch movies , t.v., and read books for entertainment ( I am currently reading Kavalier and Clay). The last theater I took in was Blue Man Group and John Leguizamo’s Freak. So please do not take my review as someone who knows modern theater.
That all being said, I didn’t much care of the piece. It was difficult to follow, difficult to become attached to, and it felt very academic/high brow… somewhat forced at points… and this was just the first half. I ended up leaving after the first half because I didn’t feel that I was going to enjoy the second half of the show. I wasn’t laughing when others were and felt very out of place.
“Let Me Down Easy” is a collection stories based on interviews that Anna has done all over the world. She portrays her interviewees in the piece. The topic of the parts she portrayed in the first act were loosely connected by a theme of grace. It started off with a back and forth between many different characters that was remonicent to a Robin Williams performance from Aladdin. Each character gets about 15 seconds and then it changes to another. In time these transitions bewteen the different voces slowed, but I still had a hard time becoming attached to any of the characters in order to have empathy and interest in there story.
I didn’t get it. Both the details of humor and the larger point of the piece. I think that the humor was at the expense of the interviwee or based on some inside joke that I was not a part of. The main connective material of the piece was thin and somewhat confusing. I felt that it was reminiscent of a freshman term paper where the author is grasping at many sources to put together their topic in the process.
Anna’s performance started to blend for me. While she was masterful at switching accents and outfits, I felt that there was a specific annunciation that drifted between all the characters. This may have been using her articitcs liscence, but I felt that this use of over annunciation was used to overramatize all the characters. Some of these interviewees are probably not as dramatic and some may even be understated, but based on the performance I saw everyone has drama written into their dialogue.
On a brighter, less critial note… I thought that the set design was very exciting and the transitions were well put together. The music, which was composed specifically for this show, was well suited to this piece. My only complaint was about the fact that they played a voice singing amazing grace as we went into the intermission. This seemed aqard seeing as all the other musical pieces were done by a saxaphone. I would have thought that playing amazing grace on the saxophone would have made for a more haunting and pensive tranisiton into intermission.
So that is what I thought.
OK, next week… back to a regular bi-weekly show. Sunday I will have a great show and share my experience from the first guild meeting and the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat.