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A CurtainUp Review

By Jenny Sandman

If I were a word, I would be 'more' --- Yeardley Smith
Yeardley Smith
Yeardley Smith
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Yeardley Smith (The Legend of Billie Jean, As Good as It Gets), best known as the voice of Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons, never wanted to make a living behind the camera. She wanted to be rich and famous, to be the best at everything she did. In fact, her to-do list for the eighties read:
1. Lose weight.
2. Get rich.
3. Get famous.
4. Get married.
5. Be happy.

Now, of course, her to-do list is a little shorter ("Remain married."). Like Lisa Simpson, Smith struggled with depression and with constant feelings of inadequacy. She was a self-described "sucking vortex of need." In addition, she battled bulimia during 25 years she spent trying to land the perfect role, the one that would catapult her to superstardom.

The dark underbelly of fame and her long, strange trip to the bottom are the subject of her Smith's one-woman show, that just opened for an open run at the Union Square Theatre. The play takes its title from the author-performer's self definition: "If I were a word, I would be 'more'!" The play traces Ms. Smith's Sisyphean quest for fulfillment or to be "More." It seems that the more successful she became, the more she felt something was deeply amiss with her life. Her acting career brought most of the items on her to-do list, including an Emmy. What it didn't bring was happiness.

Many one-person shows, especially those of the confessional variety, have a tendency to become either maudlin or self-serving in short order, but More is neither. While Smith could easily blame her personality disorder on her emotionally distant parents, her strict Yankee upbringing, or her early meteoric rise to stardom on Broadway, she places the blame squarely on herself and doesn't apologize or make excuses. Instead she tells her story simply and in an energetic, charismatic way. What's more she doen't lean on Lisa Simpson who makes only a token appearance.

Smith's saga covers her spiraling depression, her dwindling acting career, the dissolution of her first marriage and a scary encounter with a stalker. It then brings a turnaround with a new therapist and husband.

The strange sparkly purple outfit the performer wears fits the cartoonish, Matisse-like set. While that dwarfs the woman on stage, it is an apt metaphor for her ambition. Director Judith Ivey keeps Smith moving and ; the set and lights provide needed visual interest to what would otherwise be a static show.

Smith's wry sense of humor and quirky physicality (embodied in her characterization of Lisa Simpson) serves her well in this show. To sum up, More is an interesting tale, well told.

Editor's Note: The pronunciation is yard-lee as in backyard.

Written and performed by Yeardley Smith
Directed by Judith Ivey
Sound Design by David Meschter
Lighting Design by Beverly Emmons
Set Design by Loy Arcenas
Running time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
Union Square Theatre, 100 East 17th Street; 212-307-7171
From 3/01/04; opening 3/22
Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6 and 9 p.m. and Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. (no performances Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Tickets range in price from $20 to $50. Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on March 19th performance
Last performance: 4/19/04, after 29 regular performances and 19 previews

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