The Broadway Blog sent contributor Lindsay B. Davis to Lincoln Center for a Texas treat. Lindsay is an arts/culture journalist, actress, playwright and director. She resides in New York City.
- “ANN” starring Holland Taylor at Lincoln Center Theater
At one point during the performance of Lincoln Center Theater’s ANN, a one-woman play written and performed by Emmy-nominated actress and first time playwright Holland Taylor, I turned to my fellow theatergoer and whispered, “I love her.” I no longer knew if I was referring to Taylor or the late ex-governor of Texas, Ann Richards, whom the actress portrays with warmth, intelligence and a physicality that captures the essence of her inspiration.
So it goes when an actress seamlessly gets out of the way to let a compelling character emerge. One doesn’t need to know anything about Ann Richards to enjoy ANN. It lives and breathes on its own as a solid work of theater, albeit a slightly uneven one as far as plot and storytelling goes. Familiar or not with the tough-talking, charming, witty political pioneer and champion of liberal values, feminism and the zingy retort, ANN satisfies beyond measure.
The play has a strong first act and immediately turns the audience into guests of a fictionalized commencement speech at a college in Texas. Taylor emerges in head to toe white, sporting Richards’s trademark coif, a power suit adorned with a diamond star brooch (representing not just the Lone Star state but the lucky star under which she believes to have been born), and smart heels. Through animated storytelling, we hear about Richards’s childhood in Waco, first foray into public service and office, various political inspirations and supporters, marriage to a civil rights lawyer, plus glimpses of her unapologetic descent into alcoholism and later, recovery.
Taylor almost dances across the stage as she entertains and tells jokes, some dirty, which she learned from her warm-hearted dad (Did you hear the one about the Terrier and Great Dane?). She speaks with the delight and skill of a seasoned cabaret artist or vaudevillian comedian. One can’t help but wonder if the real governor Richards was this entertaining but it doesn’t really matter. You’re too busy laughing to care.
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