"Let Me Down Easy": Theater Review

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Through July 10 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $17-$93; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org.

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Anna Deavere Smith is a revelation on the Berkeley Rep stage. She's an accomplished actress with lead roles in West Wing and Nurse Jackie, and profoundly skilled storyteller and mimic. She spent a decade interviewing hundreds of people (a rodeo rider, a prizefighter, a preacher, a New Orleans nurse, even Lance Armstrong and Lauren Hutton) about their relationships to their bodies and spirits as they age and get closer to death. With the help of director Leonard Foglia, Smith uses her unique performance style to channel their voices verbatim with careful attention to gesture and cadence, telling a story, in her words, "about life as much as death, about a search for grace." Close your eyes and hear more than 20 characters speaking intimately about their journeys toward the grave, including Armstrong confessing how his fear of death drives his cycling, Joel Siegal cracking jokes on his deathbed, and a Buddhist monk pondering how we go about dying and what might be next. It's stunning, beautiful, and transcendent.

 
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