Don't be put off by the subject matter. The play, which examines the finite nature of life and how people cope with illness, is a joyous celebration of human perseverance.
Over the years, Smith has built a sterling stage reputation with such documentary-style works as "Fires in the Mirror" and "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992." She excels at a kind of theatrical journalism, interviewing people and then distilling those interviews for a parade of astonishing portraits.
Her latest collection, which opened Wednesday, may not reach the heights of those two previous shows, but it is still very good. The new snapshots include such celebrities as former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and cyclist Lance Armstrong as well as more personal and private folk such as Smith's Aunt Lorraine and Trudy Howell, a woman who runs an orphanage in South Africa.
Smith has no trouble transforming herself into these people, men as well as woman, sometimes by affecting an accent or putting on a different coat or acquiring a prop such as a cane or a glass of red wine.
And the stories are strikingly different. As Eduardo Bruera, a specialist at a Texas cancer center says, "It is not plausible to turn dying into a picnic; it will never happen. ... (But) not everybody dies the same way."
And those ways are what proves so fascinating in Smith's play. Humor exists side by side with sorrow. Joel Siegel, the television movie critic who died in 2007, gets a huge laugh with a great George Burns joke that won't be spoiled by telling it here. And Smith's aunt, a retired teacher, offers delightful remembrances of her own mother and older sister, memories that produce laughter and a few tears.
There is good, practical advice, too. For example, in Smith's portrayal of Harvard University minister Peter Gomes, who gives a heartfelt description of his job: "My work is to make the movement from this life to the next one as graceful and easy as possible."
In fact, Gomes delivers sermonlike instructions on what people should do to mourn the dead, including regular visits to the cemetery. These pilgrimages, he says, will make us realize "that we have had something precious. And that we recall it regularly and faithfully when we visit the graves of those whom we love."
One other thing. With the current health-care debate showing no signs of slowing down, "Let Me Down Easy" has even more immediacy. The striking disparity between those with health-care coverage and those without is on display in remembrances from a doctor at Charity Hospital in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.
The inequities are staggering, a rueful reminder that death may be the great equalizer, but getting there takes many different paths.