“Ann” is an quick-witted, double-barreled portrait of the legendary late governor of Texas (1991-1995) who hated racism, sexism and homophobia.
Ann Richards believed that the government should work for all people. That belief should be standard fare for all people, especially those who hold key government offices. Sadly, it’s not, and the horrific results of prejudice are too lengthy and sad to ponder on these pages.
I had the rare opportunity to meet the late legend at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in the form of Emmy Award-winning actress Holland Taylor, who also wrote the one-woman play. Taylor’s turn on stage goes beyond the promise; it delivers the sizzle, the crackle and the pop.
Lincoln Center is a sophisticated destination, and I’m confident that your parents and grandparents would give you high marks for choosing this play. Any serious student of theatrical arts should attend this show. It’s two hours (with one intermission) of a master class.
The play is inspiring, hilarious, interesting and–like Richards herself–complex and imperfect. The flaw, in my view, is in the structure of the play, which Taylor wrote after poring over hours of research and anecdotes shared by the late governor’s friends and foes.
The language is rich and authentic in tone and texture, and her performance is riveting. A trim could make the show even more magical with cleaner act breaks, but I’m picking at the smallest of loose threads, much like Richards did when she noticed the frayed Texas flag in her office.
With a needle and thread in one hand, Richards cradled the phone and continued her conversation with some important political figure–maybe it was her old buddy President Bill Clinton, who would often call to share “colorful jokes” only suited to adults with equally colorful personalities.
The play explores Richards’ dirt-poor childhood in Texas, her years spent trying to be the perfect mother and her turn as a political activist and functioning alcoholic (she was in rehab before it became a chic rite of passage for celebrities).
Taylor is often recognized because of her role in the often trashed but financially lucrative comedy “Two and a Half Man.” Apples and golden oranges.
You do not need to know anything about Ann Richards to enjoy “Ann.” Taylor’s performance is fiery, feisty, celebratory and is just razzle-dazzle, gosh-darn good. I’m hoping that she is in talks to bring “Ann” to cable sooner than later.
Written and performed by Holland Taylor and directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein, “Ann” is being staged at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. For more info, visit www.lct.org.