PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Ann; A Big House for the Little Lady

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08 Mar 2013

Holland Taylor; guests Elaine Stritch, Ben Vereen and Anne Hathaway
Holland Taylor; guests Elaine Stritch, Ben Vereen and Anne Hathaway
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Meet the first-nighters at the Broadway opening of Holland Taylor's Ann.

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Lincoln Center Theater's sprawling Vivian Beaumont Theater was last populated by a cast of 37 and two War Horses, each made of cane and manipulated by three puppeteers. On March 7, that stage was filled to capacity by a solitary, pint-sized playwright-actress of five-foot-four, passing for a political legend "probably five-foot-two — with hair."

This is Holland Taylor's Ann — as in Ann Richards, who upended Texas politics in the '90s and became the 45th governor of the Lone Star State from 1991 to 1995, before being put out to pasture by future United States President George W. Bush.

Outfitted in a smart white suit with a matching Dairy Queen 'do (precisely approximated by hair designer Paul Huntley), Taylor charges forth in her Taylor-made role that runs counter to her usual brittle subtleties and sophistication. She seems to have gotten all that out of her system by gargling with bourbon and branch-water. Precise, drily-delivered diction gives way to lazy Texas twangs.

Plain-spoken, abrasive and fast on the drawl, Taylor's Richards shoots from the lip throughout, winning the audience over with words that are often wise ("If you rest, you rust") but usually "risky" ("That guy couldn't organize a circle jerk").

The bio-play evolves into four or five set pieces, commencing with a somewhat salty commencement address. Then, the podium recedes, and a governor's office slides forth. That surrenders to a New York apartment where Richards conspicuously retired from politics (but not from speaking her mind). The final section is in a kind of tentative limbo where she attempts to lick The Big C and attends her own funeral.

Continued...

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