Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review - The Lady with All the Answers


The Lady with all the Answers

by David Rambo

directed by Brendon Fox
Pasadena Playhouse
through November 23

As we left the theatre on opening night, my friend remarked, "Well, this will never win a Pulitzer, but I enjoyed myself!" Tame, low-key, but full of laugh-out-loud stories from readers' letters, The Lady with all the Answers, a one person play about one unsettling night in the life of columnist Ann Landers, is assuredly an ultra-amusing evening of theatre. Its star Mimi Kennedy delivers an endearing performance.

I knew little about Epie Lederer, the voice behind Ann Landers since 1955, aside from the fact that her twin sister was Dear Abby. Her husband was Jules Lederer who owned the multi-million Budget Rent-a-Car empire. She did not believe in divorce, was a great advocate of human rights, including those of gays and was greatly opposed to the politics of Presidents Johnson, Nixon and the Viet Nam War. Outspoken, but always refined and respected, she somehow summoned the nerve to appear on TV and educate the public about Linda Lovelace and the porn film Deep Throat in a controversial interview in Chicago in the 60s, in the presence of Lovelace herself. Explaining to the audience that she did not know what the title Deep Throat really meant until her daughter told her shortly before the taping, makes for one hilarious segment of the play.

Set in 1975, the action opens with Lander's preoccupation with the writing of her latest column. Throughout the two hours she entertains us with many humorously curious letters from readers - some of which she is incorporating into a book. Eventually she opens up and confides that her great writing dilemma this evening comes down to being honest about her impending divorce from the cheating Jules Lederer, a man she truly adores. Why is she so concerned about announcing her divorce? Because, according to Landers, how must it look for the woman that knows so much about solving everyone else's marital problems - to be getting divorced herself? Sincere, caring Ann Landers. She values her reputation and wants her readers to hear the truth from her alone. That's the conflict of the play in a nutshell. No great drama, no issues of life and death, just a straightforward portrait of one professional who puts the people that read her work - her first priority.

Kennedy looks and acts the part quite elegantly, particularly in mink and uses just the right inflections to duplicate Lander's distinctive voice. She invites us into her study and is the ever gracious hostess. Frivolous stories about how to hang TP, sex fantasies in marriage et al add up to pure enjoyment. More serious stories about her Viet Nam visit to the veterans' hospitals are sweet and quite touching and show the great humanitarian that Landers truly was. Kennedy's portrayal is unpretentious much like Landers and utterly engaging.

Gary Wissmann's set of the luxurious Lake Shore Drive apartment study is stunning.

Don't expect any great shakes from Rambo's writing, but, like the 18% of married couples who are still enjoying sex with each other after many years, you will leave the theatre smiling.

4 out of 5 stars


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