Yeardley Smith has nostrils and five fingers on each hand. Her hair does not jut out in Lady Liberty spikes, nor has she had numberless eighth birthdays. Also, we have it on good authority that she does occasionally change her outfit. In most other respects, however, Smith resembles the character she has voiced for a decade and a half, television’s Lisa Simpson. From pert nose to petite ears to girlish inflection to overachiever syndrome, actress and cartoon reveal an eerie symbiosis.
Yet in More, her one-woman show, Smith inventories a host of ordeals that have never visited young Lisa. There have been no very special episodes of The Simpsons devoted to paralyzing anxiety, fear of failure, fear of success, sex with married men, marathon bulimia sessions, or a debilitating jealousy of Cynthia Nixon. Apparently, modest acclaim and a rumored salary of $100,000 per episode have proved insufficient for Smith. She wants to be thinner, prettier, richer, better loved, and most of all, in front of the camera.
Smith commences a dreary catalog of struggle and self-deprecation: distant family, showbiz defeats, failed relationships. And she describes her eating disorder in ickily obsessive, cheerful detail. But though she includes the most intimate aspects of her life—spectators can count themselves quite familiar with her esophagus by show’s end—she never really reveals herself. Throughout, Smith (and director Judith Ivey) keep the audience at a distance. She’s so rehearsed and procedural, she seems to be performing less herself than just another character—a tiresome one. In fact, as the piece progresses, Smith comes to appear less spunky, self-starter Lisa and more that neurotic, romantically blighted compulsive eater of Sunday-paper infamy: Cathy.