note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Sometimes you know a person in a particular setting but you're not privy to the rest of their life. And sometimes you're quite surprised by that "other" life.
Mark Smith, who ran Worcester Foothills Theatre for over 25 years, is inviting audiences into his extraordinary life this month (at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre on Commonwealth Avenue) to hear about an "ordinary" man's adventures here in the States and abroad. Smith calls his autobiographical play --- written for his sons --- "My Life in Smithereens" --- actuially a misnomer because the title implies smoething shattered and his remarkable experiences add up to a full, rich life.
Lawrence Bull portrays Smith in this theater piece which is not unlike an evening with Mark Twain: lots of exciting stories unfold in two short acts. Smith anchors them with a historical timeline so that there is a palpable context for his childhood. Rumors of war permeate the household as the old world and the new intersect. The small Jewish boy living on the west side of Worcester hears that the Nazis can come and steal you away in the middle of the night --- which to us now seems absurd, but in fact German submarines made it to the coast of Maine.
Woreld War II comes alive in a boy's imagination, then ripples into his adolescence and early manhood with harrowing tales of brushes with danger. Smith's encounters with the KKK make your hair stand on end, in the most powerful section of his play. He's even left out some stories, he says --- making us wish he hadn't.
Bull relates the stories with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, eyes sparkling, his chair whizzing across the stage on its casters to return to an earlier adventure. As one-man shows go --- and they often go slowly --- this one is a delightful treat.