“in one blistering scene after anotherwith dialogue that is alternately highly poetic, down-and-dirty, eerily disturbing and fiercely authoritarianSmith exposes the lies and the blazing truths that animate his characters.”
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times, on Knock Me a Kiss
a plot twist of his own that darkens even twain’s dark humor.”
Bruce Weber, New York Times, on Pudd’nhead Wilson
“The strengths of Smith’s theatre collection are numerous and exhilarating. His characters are original and surprising, often vexing and exasperating, but they each have their piece to contribute. Smith’s dramas are persuasive without being didactic, and without suggesting simple conclusions. They are eloquent and poignant, but with a punch. Something like Carson McCullers without the malaise, or Spike Lee without the chatter. These are smart, profoundly felt, demanding scripts that refuse to pander to our expectations. The Gospel According to James and Other Plays belongs on the shelf of anyone with a sincere love for relevant, powerful theatre.”
“History serves (Smith), and he serves history; such reciprocity grounds his narratives, gives it real stakes, and adds the gravitas of the broad sweep of our complex and often troubled American heritage. In return, Smith gives the history profoundly human meaning and an active purpose in contemporary life.”
This is the first collection of plays by Smith (playwriting, Ohio Univ.), who has done the majority of his work at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. Most of the works treat historical characters and events in a fictionalized and dramatic setting; that is, the words the characters say may not necessarily be in the historical record, but the ideas expressed and the situations in which they are placed are closely related to the realities that the characters experienced. Particularly noteworthy in this collection is “Knock Me a Kiss,” the story of the courtship and star-crossed marriage of W.E.B. DuBois’s daughter, Yolande, to poet Countee Cullen. The dialog is earthy and humorous, and the characters are written solidly and truthfully. The casts are smallish (ranging from three to 13), and the set design demands are minimal. “Pudd’nhead Wilson” is the longest script of the bunch, at about 90 pages; the others average about 60 pages.
Verdict Directors will, upon reading these scripts, rush to find a cast and a in which space to perform them. The stories will be unfamiliar to most playgoers, and actors will find all of the roles a joy to inhabit. This is drama that deserves a wide audience in theaters of all sizes.Larry Schwartz, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Moorhead
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.