Let Me Down Easy: A Play to be Experienced

Photo by David Cantelli

Photo by David Cantelli

How do you review a conversation?  It ebbs and flows, but really does not exist for someone to decide if it is good. However, this is the task I’ve been given after seeing Epic Theatre’s newest selection, Let Me Down Easy, by Anna Deveare-Smith.  This Rhode Island premiere is just that; a conversation. And in that thinking, Epic’s artistic director has taken this play and turned it on its head. The play, a one-woman show composed of interviews conducted by Deveare-Smith, is presented as a conversation among a talented ensemble of performers. From the moment you walk into 82 Rolfe Square, you know you’re in for something different. Instead of being ushered into the theater, you are asked to wait in the eclectic café, as that is where the show begins. The lights are not dimmed, and it sets the tone that this is more than a play, it is a discussion.

This cast does a fantastic job with such difficult material. Deveare-Smith didn’t write monologues, she recorded interviews, and no one speaks like a polished character in an Aaron Sorkin film. Real interviews have “um” and “oh wait, no, that’s wrong” in them. Every performer in this show did a stellar job. I particularly enjoyed Melanie Stone as the aged dancer and Joann Bromley as the dean of medicine as well lmd2as the Washington Post reporter. Joan Batting’s Lauren Hutton and Ann Richards were delightful. Tammy Brown is a treat to watch onstage in her roles, especially as Deveare-Smith’s aunt. Of course, the gentlemen in the show did a fantastic job from Justin Pimental’s Lance Armstrong, to Rico Lanni’s rodeo star, and finally Jason Quinn’s minister at the end of the evening. Each and every one of these performers brought something beautiful, real and at times haunting to the conversation. There were many times I found myself nodding with the interviewees and wanting to add my own two cents.

Photo by David Cantelli

Photo by David Cantelli

Broccoli’s vision with this show is exactly where it should be. He took this one-woman show and turned it into a creative ensemble piece. He recognizes the importance of the piece, with topics ranging from disease, healthcare and aging bodies, and doesn’t let you simply leave the theater with nowhere to turn. After each performance, there is a talk back that the audience is invited to stay for. I love when theaters offer talk backs; however, generally a lot of audiences leave before they begin. Not with this show. Everyone stayed in their seat, still moved by what they just experienced. And yes, experienced is the right word. This is not a show that you simply watch and leave. This weekend will include talk backs led by John Michael Richardson on Friday night, and Kira Hawkridge on Saturday night. Professor Sue Abbotson from Rhode Island College was there the night I saw the show, and she will be there for the closing performance.

This is a show you should see if you want to think, discuss and learn. This is a show you should see if you love theater and want to see something done in such a creative manner that you leave energized as an artist. Well done to all involved!

Let Me Down Easy runs January 22-23 at 8pm, and the 24th at 3pm at Artists’ Exchange, Theatre 82 & Café.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by going to artists-exchange.org

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