The bigger-than-life political figure of Ann Richards, entitled “Ann” at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, comes full force as the tough, wise-cracking one-term Governor of the great state of Texas.
From her roots in the Depression-era, with a father she adored and made her feel she could do anything, to a mother who saw the glass half empty, Ann rose to great heights as a champion of women.
Creating the perfect role for herself, Holland Taylor has written this one-woman show, a comedy-drama, about the sharp-witted Richards who takes on everything and anything from marriage to David Richards, a civil rights attorney, to the realization that when he declines running for local office, she must pick up the torch and forge ahead thereby instilling herself in the future of politics.
The play opens as Ann is giving a college commencement speech, filled with her brand of humor, inspiration and information about her life; a divorced mother of four, an alcoholic (“And nowadays, hell, you can’t hardly even get into a primary unless you’ve done time in rehab”); Ms. Taylor having researched extensively to find all the truths and witticisms.
What made Ann Richards such a prominent figure was her ability to not only pay attention to the job at hand as Governor – should she grant a pardon to someone on death row – champion gun control; but was always on top of family matters, taking charge of everything from who should cook a turkey on Thanksgiving to smoothing over a son’s problems about charades. Richards was gleeful and loved to hear and tell dirty jokes. She wanted to be perfect in everything to everybody. But she did love her martinis just a little too much! What was on her mind was usually on her tongue.
As the set (designed by Michael Fagin) moves from speech making to displaying the interior of the Governor’s office, she is on the phone non-stop fielding calls from Mother Theresa to Bill Clinton to her aides, as we hear her secretary, Nancy Kohler’s voice (Julie White).
It was the 1988 DNC that catapulted her to the Governor’s position. Richards was ambitious and non-stop and Holland, in white suit (by Julie Weiss), with glowing white “Republican” hair (wig Paul Huntley), has established her ownership of the role she created.
The negatives are the tediousness of a two-act play (directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein), that surely could have been woven into one, since there are many repetitious moments, and the need to preach about our roles as voters and the people we elect to office. If only it were that simple!
Photo: Ave Bonar
“Ann” – Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, (212) 239-6200, lct.org.