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PERFORMANCE REVIEW

Live: Kevin Smith at the Orpheum Theatre

The onetime indie-film maverick conducts a rambling, profane and ultimately entertaining Q&A session with fans.

October 26, 2009|John Lopez

Dwarfed by the cavernous stage of downtown's Orpheum Theatre, indie film icon Kevin Smith held court Saturday night on a black leather couch that looked as if it came straight from 1994. Bathrobe clad, he took questions from faithful fans with an outing that, were it anyone but the affably crude Smith, might be billed as a one-man show.

Here it was just "An Evening With Kevin Smith," the latest in a touring series of lengthy Q&A's that the auteur periodically does to sold-out crowds in venues such as New York's Carnegie Hall or Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto. Employing the same stoned, shaggy-dog storytelling of his films (and numerous expletives), Smith worked the volley of queries like a seasoned tennis pro. Or, as the hockey-loving Smith might prefer, like "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky, anticipating the puck.

In responses that lasted from four words to 45 minutes, Smith roamed far and wide, touching on such topics as the intimidating joys of working with Bruce Willis on his upcoming feature "A Couple of Dicks" and ordering $800 of groceries from Yummy.com while high. Typically sex-centric, self-deprecatingly honest and often hilarious, Smith's extemporaneous ruminations had the flavor of therapy, albeit therapy for an adept showman.

The 39-year-old Smith admitted as much backstage after the show, "It's probably more fun for me than any of them because I just get to sit up there for three hours and talk about my life." Smith said he doesn't prepare for these shows, he just goes up and talks -- though the Internet dialogue he maintains with his fans gives him a strong foundation from which to work.

Some laughs are reserved for the geek-erati, but reading between the profanity-laden lines, those less familiar with Smith's work could discern an intriguing subtext: an elegy for independent film.

Smith was a child of Harvey Weinstein's Miramax, a product of a unique and exciting time in the early '90s when independent filmmakers didn't even bother to storm the gates of studios. They just went out and made films with no names, no budgets and no plot -- and found an audience.

Smith grappled with fears of irrelevance until he finally embraced the uncertainty of his artistic direction and accepted that he might be moving from an apprentice filmmaker fueled by "brio and passion" to a hoped-for calmer craftsman.

Meditating backstage on his legacy, Smith's thoughts on leaving behind the kid who made "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy" could apply to the film community in general: "I want to honor that kid because I spent so long being that person, but the adult in me wants to tell that kid . . . 'You don't get it, you'll understand in a couple of years, life is about shifting focuses.' "

Kevin Smith, elder statesman: Who knew?

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