Texas is noteworthy for two things – the Alamo and Ann Richards who became the 45th Governor of the Lone Star State quite by accident, a twist of fate, her tenacity and hard work ethic instilled in her by her dad who was a master story teller as is Holland Taylor who has written this wonderfully theatrical piece, ANN, which examines the highs and lows, warts and all, of this feisty Texan who overcame the bigotry of her being a woman, a divorced woman at that, an alcoholic and a Democrat to become one of the most well known, controversial, outspoken and opinionated Governors of these United States.
Holland Taylor, eerily looking every inch a replica of Ann Richards – in her trademark white suit, pile of hair and diamond star pin and speaking her mind with a Texas drawl to the students in a school auditorium – the Vivian Beaumont Theater – addressing us, the audience, giving the commencement address for the graduating class reflects on her life, past and present with transitions as smooth as silk.
Surprising sets (Michael Fagin) and projections (Zachary Borovay) keep the show flowing nicely aided by the detailed direction of Benjamin Endsley Klein – right down to the massaging of her sore feet.
Giving speeches was Ann Richard’s forte. She loved to talk. And boy was she funny and fun by her own admission. Holland Taylor is Ann Richards and has written this illuminating bio/drama with total passion and obvious love.
There is some live footage of the Democratic National Convention Atlanta 1988 where Ann Richards gave her now famous Keynote Speech. And then Holland Taylor takes over, literally filling the stage with her larger than life portrayal of a woman who was herself larger than life. It’s a marvel to see her re-enact the most interesting life of Ann Richards as she plays off the audience as if telling her story for the first time.
As Governor in her opulent office she orders her assistant (the offstage voice of Julie White) via intercom while multi tasking – signing documents, talking to Bill Clinton, a couple of her four children (arranging for Thanksgiving), mending the fringe of a flag, dealing with nuclear waste, buying boots for her staff and trying to decide about granting clemency of a young man on Death Row. All with her trademark humor. Although this could be trimmed a bit making the two hour two act show tighter.
There are so many terrific quotable lines but Ann Richards will be most remembered for her devotion to her family, her devotion to minorities and the rights of women, gun control (she had a very amusing way of dealing with it) and for the last great speech that she never got to give that Holland Taylor has cleverly found a way of presenting that almost has the audience cheering in its seats.
It’s a fantastic embodiment of a larger than life personality who had some mighty fine things to say that we should all listen closely to, most importantly to have a conscience. We have the power. We must use it well and please stop whining and VOTE.
www.theannrichardsplay.com Photos: Ave Bonar
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