Chicago Theatre Review
Holland Taylor’s ‘Ann,’ Equal Parts Funny and Smart
By Devlyn Camp
Holland Taylor has never written before, but you’d never guess. Judging by her one-woman play Ann, one would think she’s been writing for years. Inspired by the innovations of Texan Governor Ann Richards, Taylor began researching Richards’s life and wrote the ultimate homage to the political pioneer. The play, in which Holland Taylor also plays Governor Richards, begins with Ann giving a serious, yet comical commencement speech at a fictional college, which digresses into the past, allowing the show to let us see her at work in the Governor’s Mansion. She rambles off little stories and anecdotes of her life bookended by witty jokes and little lessons she’s taken to heart. While talking about her childhood Ann says, “I suppose we were poor…but I don’t like the word. I prefer ‘hardworking.’” And that she was. Ann moves from her home with a difficult mother to raising a family to alcoholism to politics and beyond. Between loosing her marriage and fixing up her “Republican hair,” Ann still finds the time to jab at political scandals and somehow make every profound moment more serious with a joke.
Her story questions the possibility of being able to “have it all.” Ann’s political career only briefly overlapped with her marriage. She couldn’t find the time in her work to completely satisfy housewife duties and vise versa, so she chose the work that she loved. Taylor’s play is about moving on, going ahead and passing fear without stopping to examine it. After learning her place as society saw it should be, Ann learned where she thought it should be and made a new mark in women’s history. But not only does she speak to the imaginary graduates about making one’s self a profound person, she carefully examines the importance of enjoying your own personality and relishing in being loved by someone. Taylor’s play takes the difficult task of one-woman show and triumphs in making the singular actress completely captivating throughout the piece.
“She meant more to me than I had known,” Holland Taylor says in a post-show interview. In its fifth presentation and Broadway bound with more changes to come, Ann showcases an edged personality with a proper understanding that being alive is something bigger than your self. Taylor (Two and a Half Men, Baby Mama) spent several months researching the governor and also spoke to several of Ann’s close friends. Having only met her once, Taylor watched several videos of her to understand the physicality of the woman’s odd quirks. And that is quite obvious when she is on the stage, giving no sign of the actress recognized for her Emmy-nominated roles. “She was Elvis,” Taylor says. A politically brilliant superstar. She didn’t write the biographical play as a career move, she says. She then goes on to say, “I didn’t write it for her fans. I wrote it for America.”
Bank of America Theatre
Through December 4th, 2011
Tickets starting at $20, available at BroadwayInChicago.com
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