For Ann Richards, a Depression kid who rose to become an outspokenly liberal Democratic governor of Texas, everything in life was a challenge by which she refused to be fazed. A whip-smart woman with an epigrammatic, country-accented tongue and a no-nonsense eye for facts, she was probably not the easiest person to deal with, nor to work for. Still, being around her in her more fiery moods must have been a hell of a lot of fun. And she did some considerable opening-up of Texas’s traditionally whites-only, good ol’ boys–preferred government.
Holland Taylor, an actress whose skill and intelligence make an excellent match for Richards’s, has carpentered up a makeshift but brainy and laugh-laden solo play about Richards, Ann (Vivian Beaumont Theater). It skips lightly over many matters, starting with chronology, but it nails the issues that made Richards’s political presence significant, as well as the blunt, tart tone in which she addressed them. Hopping from a commencement address to a particularly trying day in the governor’s office, and flashing back to childhood before flying on into the afterlife (are we meant to think that commencement address was being delivered in Heaven?), Ann can seem awfully random; fortunately, when it gets down to brass tacks, which is often, it knows where to plunge their points.
Taylor, whose thoroughness as an actress was long familiar on and off Broadway before her days of TV stardom, has immersed herself with wit and variety into Richards’s spunky character, alternately ferocious and good-humored. With a replica of Richards’s “Republican hair” nestling snugly on her head like a white crocheted cap, she swings her slender arms into motion, cocks her head, and launches a multicolored panoply of remarks, observations, jokes, profanities, and proverbs. What result can’t exactly be called a play, but who needs a play when you’re meeting two such fascinating women?