Theatre Mirror Reviews - "My Life...In Smithereens"

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"My Life...In Smithereens"

by Marc P. Smith
Directed and Designed by Joe Smith

Associate Producer Susan L. Smith
Stage Manager Lyn Liseno

Marc P. Smith..............................Lawrence Bull

"I am not me," confesses Lawrence Bull, "I am an actor playing me."
I misread the dates for this show, but you shouldn't. You still have one more week-end to see this biting, illuminating, lively autobiography --- referred to as "a one-person play" and going from grandparents in northern Russia to the last twenty-five years making The Worcester Foothills Theatre a professional reality. As the two hour-long acts whip by you will get to know a man and a family and a generation of American history better than you could ever have thought possible.

It is true that Lawrence Bull is much leaner, much younger, much bald-er than the play's author, but by theatrical magic he IS Marc Smith at every twisting, sharply-remembered turn of his life --- a hands-on experience of childhood in World War II, committed Jewish journalist parents, documentary radio with the Army in Korea, sampling power editing the "Close Ups" in T-V GUIDE, and shaking the hand of a man who shook the hand of Adolph rural Georgia yet! And those are only fleeting highlights of this full, fully remembered life.

At one point, he says, his father heard him use the popular phrase Free, White, and Twenty-one. "In the first place," his father cautioned, "you're not twenty-one. You are eight." Bull skates across the stage in a swivel-chair, sits at or on a table, moves expertly from key light to key light, rapping out startlingly vivid images, insights, reflections and conclusions. "They say eight other terrified Russians said their name was 'Smith' the day my grandfather's boat reached Ellis island," he laconically explains. "Pearl Harbor united America; it was suddenly us against them, and 'America First' was forgotten." "I volunteered, requesting duty in Italy --- and immediately found myself on a ship bound for ... Korea?" The Klan Kleagle friend of an ex S.S. Officer when interrupted in an anti-Semitic tirade by Smith's assertion he's Jewish says "Nothin' personal" before continuing where he left off. At CBS he finally tells a lazy Russian aristocrat "You will finish this job because, once, your family OWNED my family!"

Bull wears these words like a second skin, and the words will take you anywhere, across miles and across time, to kids in pre-war Worcester speculating, when Hitler invaded, whether they would fight, or hide, or run; to gas rationing and shortages; to seeing a woman reading interpretations for The Theatre of The Deaf and knowing she'd be his bride; to quitting the tensions of high living in New York to go back to his little home town --- and founding a theater company. You will live those words along with him, and meet the shorter, fatter, older man in the lobby, and only the still new scars of a triple by-pass peeking above his shirt-buttons will separate him in your mind from those words, come alive on stage.

At least that was true for me. But then, when his parents heard in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was bombed Marc P. Smith was only seven --- and I was already nine --- so I know he knows what he, in Lawrence Bull's performance, is talking about.
Once you see the show, you'll know it too.


"My Life...In Smithereens" (till 27 May)
Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide