Anna Deavere Smith's Let Me Down Easy Airs On "Great Performances" Jan. 13

By Adam Hetrick
January 13, 2012

Anna Deavere Smith's solo play about the U.S. healthcare system and the resilience of the human body, Let Me Down Easy, airs Jan. 13 on PBS' "Great Performances."



Leonard Foglia (Master Class) directed the stage production, which played a critically acclaimed run Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in 2009. It was filmed during its national tour in February 2011 at Arena Stage.

It airs on PBS WNET Thirteen in the New York area at 9 PM. Additional programs announced for "Great Performances" include Memphis and the 25th anniversary performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Here's how "Great Performances" bills the acclaimed play: "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."

Smith has been seen on television's "Nurse Jackie," "The West Wing," "The Practice" and in the films "Rachel Getting Married," "The American President," "Philadelphia" and "Dave." As a writer, she has penned the plays Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Fires in the Mirror (Pulitzer Prize finalist) and House Arrest as well as the books "Talk To Me" and "Letters to A Young Artist."