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November 2005



THEATRE REVIEW By Lamont Truesdale


The Michael Weller Theatre
311 West 43rd, 6th FL, NYC

The significant of the African American experience is a case taken and tried in the courthouses of the morally corrupt and the justifiably powerful. Many have an opinion of how Americans as a whole, let alone people of color, and how they should respond in times of national tragedy and historical marking.

And so in the play "Just Happy to Be Here!" The issues of patriotism, delusions, loss and self-awareness in a post 911 world are tackled from five different points of view. In his first one man show St. Louis Native, and now Harlem resident, Damien Smith delivers a case study of a case study.

Smith, a seasoned indie film and stage performer wrote and played all five characters including the one conducting the experiment on the rest. As if a shotgun blowing out the back of a person's brain is the force that Smith executes the performance. Drawing you into the world as well as the mind of a heroin addicted widower, making the meekest of Lybrals want to go for his neck as he portrays An ex marine with nothing left from his tour of Iraq but blind faith in his country and the stubs for legs to match.

The last two characters are more fined tuned and developed with the agenda of finishing the point that we as a country, as a people, a community need not feel embarrassed or some what numb to the social structure that 911 has produced; not only people of color but also all Americans that were only affected by the terrorist attacks by association of living in the same geographical location.

Smith clearly slows the pace of the play with the last two personas with quiet concentration. And when it seems at times that it will slip into an apologetic windstorm, he grabs you by the throat with unforgivable balance of words. Bold, brash, naked in honesty, Smith brings his humor to the piece as to wink at you saying in the same breath it's ok to laugh, you had better not smirk.

We find not only that Smith is a talent as an actor but also his skill as a promising playwright is clear.
The approach of each persona is acute, precise, and painful and rings of uncomfortable truth. And so with Smith gets across that it's okay to sing and Lament that it is a happy yet trying thing of life to just be here.