A 1930’s looking auditorium preparing for graduation. Old fashioned wood carved podium, school banners with one that reads, “The graduating class welcomes Governor Ann Richards”. Backdrop screen projection of 1988 Convention. Ann Richards is introduced to a roaring crowd. “Twelve years ago, Barbara Jordan, another Texas woman, made the keynote address to this convention, and two women in a hundred and sixty years is par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards, and with high heels.”
This quip was one of many in the new Broadway show, Ann, both written and portrayed by Actor Holland Taylor. Taylor, who did countless research and interviews, performs as she imagines Richard’s life to have been. Truth be told, I had absolutely no clue to the background and concluded that Ann, not only holds for being a one-woman show but is probably the best non-musical of the season, let alone kudos for the comedy.
“Now there was a driving issue in Texas that will sound somewhat familiar, about whether or not children should be punished if they spoke Spanish in public schools. Ma (Texas’s first female governor) said, ‘if the English language was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for the school children of Texas’.”
She continues talking about her childhood, career and viewpoints. The phone rings and a second stage moves on replacing the scenario with an office. A second voice is heard from a side office or intercom, but we never see another person. At this point Ann is in her “Governor” stage as we now get a strong glimpse into her family and political career through phone calls and calling out to her secretary, Nancy (Julie White).
We are then back to her talking about her life and after the four years in office. One of my favorites is, “If I got turned out after my concealed weapons veto, without which every Tom, Dick, and Harry could jus’ walk into your home or your place of business packing heat, then I say, ‘So be it’… Now I tole ‘em I might consider a law that lets guys carry guns hanging from a chain around their neck. That way we could say, ‘look out, he’s got a gun’. And the idea of women carrying a gun for protection? Give me a break, Gladys.
There’s not a woman in Texas could find a gun in her purse. “
In her final speaking to the audience, Ann refers to the rest of her career, death and philosophy. How much of this is Taylor’s own insight and philosophy is something to dwell on. Two thumbs up and a big toe for Holland Taylor.
Ann is being performed at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre.