Solo Play Ann
Holland Taylor’s Acting in the Solo Play “Ann”
The Broadway show “Ann”, starring Holland Taylor, took place at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on the 7th of March. It was directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein and written by Holland Taylor. It is remarkable that the play dropped its original title, which was “Money, Marbles and Chalk: An Affectionate Sketch of Ann Richards” and has been shortened to “Ann”.
The play presents the story of a memorable person – Ann Richards, the legendary former Texas governor, savvy networker and passionate democrat. She is portrayed by Holland Taylor, whom we remember from many of her TV and film roles, particularly the series “Two and a Half Man” where she was extremely charismatic. To write a screenplay for “Ann”, the actress researched Richards’ life for two years. She realized the seriousness and importance of the task she faced. Tailor herself said: “But this isn’t a sketch. This is a real play” (Dziemianowicz, 2013). In real life, these two women met only once – over a meal at Le Cirque in 2004.
The play “Ann” is an outstanding one-woman presentation which focuses on Ann Richards as a woman, not a politician. It is both hilarious and moving to tears, inspiring and historically true. In addition to the similarity in appearance, Holland Taylor managed to capture the spirit of Ann Richards, which is more important. She felt and truly reflected the humanity, sincerity and wit of Texas’ last benignant governor. Although Taylor reproduced Richards’ manners, Texas accent and tone using drawn out, long syllables, her interpretation seems accurate without parodies and caricatures. She played directly to the audience and articulation of her lines and body language were fascinating.
The stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater was decorated in such a way that it resembled a large and wide college auditorium. Everybody was waiting for Holland Taylor to come and begin her monologue. She appeared on the stage wearing the most popular Ann Richards’s dress: pantsuit, sparkling Texas “star” pin, and white helmet hair. She literally turned into a real Ann Richards and her acing was flawless. Peter Marks from The Washington Post writes as well about Taylor’s strikingly realistic embodiment of the subject of “Ann” (Marks, 2011).
Taylor started telling the story of a remarkable woman who from a poor little girl from Texas turned out first to be a 19-year-old housewife and later became the governor of her state and political activist. She gave a closer look on the moment that greatly influenced Richards’ life: her father was called to serve in the Navy and their family had to move to California. At age eleven, Richards went to school, which was desegregated, and that’s when she first realized what inequity was. Later, exposing her candidacy for governor, she recollected the lesson she learned when she was eleven: life is unfair, but the government should not be.
We should note that Taylor was particularly witty and charming in scenes where different people called to the governor Ann, including her kids, aids and Bill Clinton. All the telephone conversations were brilliant and showed Taylor’s great talent. According to Elysa Gardner from USA Today, the most touching moments in the play were when Taylor was telling about Richards’ personal joys and challenges from her fight against cancer and alcoholism to her warm relationships with her loving father (Gardner, 2013).
One woman’s play kept the audience attention for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Though the solo format is difficult and challenging task even for seasoned playwrights, Taylor succeeded with this by dividing the show into separate thematic sections. As a result, the performance seemed fast-moving and entertaining. Also, it was informative and revealed a side of Ann Richards which was close to everybody, regardless of political beliefs.
By and large, the play leaves us with the understanding that Ann Richards was a great woman of her time. It makes us starve for all the information about her we can find. It is a delightful one-woman show in a fitting, intimate theater. If you have a chance to attend this play, make every effort not to miss it.
List of References
Joe Dziemianowicz: “Actress-Writer Holland Taylor Takes on the Late Texas Governor Ann Richards”, New York Daily News, February 17, 2013.
Peter Marks: “A Texas Icon Roars Again: Ann Richards, the Subject of ‘Ann’”, The Washington Post, December 22, 2011.
Elysa Gardner: “In ‘Ann,’ Holland Taylor Embodies a Memorable Governor”, USA Today, April 16, 2013.
Charles Isherwood: “Fiery, Salty and Brash, This Rose of Texas”, The New York Times, March 7, 2013.