Politics and entertainment have always been intertwined, but with Ann–starring Holland Taylor as Texas Governor Ann Richards–we’ve almost got a politician as standup comic.
Ann, of course, was funny and witty and a little crusty and always seemed to come up with a neat turn of phrase and a sharp point of view to sum up a situation. And Taylor plays her full force, seeing to be “on” every moment as if she had a large audience watching even when having a one-on-one conversation.
The play–written by Taylor herself, who did her research–starts with Ann giving a keynote address full of homespun stories and observations, wrapped up with her mama’s lesson to never cry over spilled milk, just move on.
We then move backwards and follow Ann into her gubernatorial office, where she’s seen taking one phone call after another–from her kids, Bill Clinton, her aides, and so on–as filtered in by her unseen assistant (voice of Tony winner Julie Wilson).
By now, we’ve heard the Gov (from 1991-’95) remember dressing like a tampon for a costume party, saying of an adversary “He couldn’t organize a circle jerk,” and declaring that if Texas women had a concealed weapon on them, they’d never be able to find them in their handbags.
The second one phone call is over, another one comes in, which creates a symphony of ludicrousness, though Taylor’s bit of shtick when an answering machine cuts her off is priceless (and uncharacteristically silent for a second).
As the play wraps up, a chair rises from below the stage, just like Velma in Chicago. Taylor sits in it and talks some more, this time getting a little bit more humanized and philosophical.
In head-to-toe white from her hair on down, Taylor is splendid, capturing the humor, decency, and abrasive energy in the woman while smoothly going from speech to phone call to more yakking.
But there’s a whole lot of talk here, and some of it seems comical without accumulating dramatic impact, especially since Richards’ swipes at George H.W. Bush are mysteriously absent. Also, even Ann Richards must have had an off moment, a slow day, or some pathos that she didn’t escape from via mama’s advice.
More conflict–and moods–would make this a better showcase, but if you miss the public spectacle that was Ann Richards, she’s definitely back.