Anna Devere Smith’s brilliant one-woman play about Let Me Down Easy is being featured on the PBS series, “Great Performances” and can be watched online. Smith, an actress who appeared in “The West Wing” and “Philadelphia,” is an actress with the ability to create real, complex, and indelible characters in an instant and a playwright who interviews hundreds of people to research a theme and then weaves their stories into dramas of enormous depth, humanity, and power. “Great Performances” says:
Smith, through her chameleon-like virtuosity, creates an indelible gallery of portraits, from a rodeo bull rider to a prize fighter to a New Orleans doctor during Hurricane Katrina, as well as boldface names like former Texas Governor Ann Richards, legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong, network film critic Joel Siegel, and supermodel Lauren Hutton. She performs 19 characters in the course of an hour and thirty-five minutes. Their stories are alternately humorous and heart wrenching, and often a blend of both. Building upon each other with hypnotic force, her subjects recount personal encounters with the frailty of the human body, ranging from a mere brush with mortality, coping with an uncertain future in today’s medical establishment, to confronting an end of life transition. The testimony of health care professionals adds further texture to a vivid portrayal of the cultural and societal attitudes to matters of health.