For many Americans, Ann Richards is best known as the Texas pol who gained fame at the 1988 Democratic National Convention by teasing George H.W. Bush for being ”born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Oddly, that line is missing from Holland Taylor’s one-woman tribute to the late governor, an outsize figure the playwright-actress depicts as intimidating, endearing, and hilarious in roughly equal measure.
Directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein with bland competence, Ann is framed by a fictitious graduation speech in which Richards recounts anecdotal highlights of her colorful life and career — though she strays from the podium to address the audience like a folksy candidate working a rope line. Taylor’s serviceable script then jumps jaggedly in time and place to Richards’ office in the governor’s office. There, we see her rolling through phone calls to a disparate group of people — Bill Clinton, whom she teases with Arkansas jokes; her beleaguered staffers, whom she berates and then sends trinkets from a ”good job drawer;” or her grown children, with whom she’s organizing a family retreat — all the while chatting with her offstage assistant (voiced by Julie White). While these scenes provide another perspective on Richards’ working and personal life, the scattershot approach to issues stunts any attempts at narrative momentum.
Taylor, who often plays snarky WASPs on TV shows like Two and a Half Men, looks almost unrecognizable with her high white perm (dubbed ”Republican hair”) and Texas drawl (”I wudn’t drinkin’ for nothin”’). She may be a workmanlike playwright, but as a performer she commands the stage with authority as big as Texas itself. No wonder they call it the Lone Star State. B+
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