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Theater review: Ann at the Vivian Beaumont Theater

  Thursday 7th March 2013

Tough as NailsFunny as Hell reads the tagline for Ann, the new one-woman show detailing the life of politician Ann Richards. In its 7th March opening, Holland Taylor leads as the democratic bulwark, Ann, who served as governor of republican-red Texas from 1991 to 1995.

At a university commencement speech, the former governor digresses, remembering rural childhood, love life, and events leading up to the keynote speech of the 1988 Democratic National Convention that sky-rocketed her into politics. The Rampant adversity of those times bred the fast talking, silver-haired firebrand face known as Ann. Taylor, whose credits extend beyond four Emmy nominations for her role in Two and a Half Men, writes about penning the Broadway piece:

“I was so mysteriously compelled after she died, which I had no business feeling since I didn’t know her. For months, I was very mournful, and, whenever you’re full of feeling, you want to do something creative about it. If I were a painter, I’d have painted a portrait of her…then it hit me, it should be a play.”

The depth that the narrative lacks is substituted by light-hearted humor that occasionally spills over into the sordid. While Taylor provides comic relief that elicits chuckles even from anti-Ann critics, she leaves her audience members unsure if they are watching discourses from a soapbox politician or a washed-up biography.

Ann’s supporting actress, follow-the-leader assistant, Nancy, is played by Julie White.  White, who won the Tony for The Little Dog Laughed and the Broadway production, The Heidi Chronicles, also boasts a television and film career, having starred in NBC’s Gone On and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln

Benjamin Endsley Klein, known for his associate director work in The Coast of Utopia, searches for the pulse in his directorial debut of Ann. Despite the elaborate and well-designed stage, a nod to set designer Michael Fagin, the story lacks necessary high and low points; it stagnates.

Ann is an entertaining, political, (and occasionally bawdy) production about a rock-solid politician. The only problem? It may not get your vote. 

Verdict: •••

Daniel Engelke

Ann runs at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York City until 8th June, 2013, for further information and to book tickets visit here.

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