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March Doldrums…Oscars are over. What next? Holland Taylor as Ann Richards

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, the Oscars are over til, well, at least Cannes. Which is in May. Not that I’m going. Tres cher as the French say. And since every one else in the blogosphere will be there, one might as well stay put and not endure the French sun(too hot) or the humiliation if you get the wrong colored pass. You see, in Cannes, everything for the Press is determined by what colored press pass you get.

A certain color will let you march right in to the press screening you desire to go to. But if not, you have to line up with all the others who don’t have the right colored pass and wait til the other colors file in past you, taking up all the good seats. Well, sod that, as the Brits say.

Lining up in Toronto is enough of an ordeal in itself. You sometimes have to get there an hour early to get in to what you what to see. I’m remembering back to the “King’s Speech” which was at 8:45 AM, and yes, there was a line. A very long one. But as I got there particularly early, in fact, I was the FIRST ONE IN LINE, I knew I’d get in.

No such guarantee in Cannes…

Meanwhile, what else does one do in New York in March? Well, being a Voting Member of the Drama Desk, I being to start attending Broadway shows once again.

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, I foresake the movies for the plays, and last night I did just that starting my theater-going Spring season off right with the imploding powerhouse that is called “Ann.”

It’s a one-woman show about the late, great governor of Texas Ann Richards who was one hell of a gal, a real Texas broad who liked trail-blazing as much as she loved talking trash as well as liberal politics.

And Ann Richards is a great under-known American political figure and being a female Texas governor is no mean feat. And the real Ann Richards did it ALL.

Unfortunately, Holland Taylor, the actress who has the audacity to shoulder her story as a one-woman show at the cavernous Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont, has chosen not only to act alone on a over-sized stage that a musical would be lost on, but also to have written the wobbly book as well. *sigh* It could’ve been great. But it’s only a little less than so-so. The road to theater hell is paved with good intentions. Although “Ann” is more like purgatory.

Taylor, an actress who is now somewhere in her seventh decade, is someone I feel I’ve seen acting since forever. A typical WASP matron type, I remember her being grandly soused in a supporting role in A.R. Gurney’s “The Cocktail Hour,” and she’s been in many, many plays and television shows, and she was always, well, serviceable. Just OK. But not a star, by any means.

I guess she’s most widely known now for “Two and Half Men” and I don’t know who she’s playing on it, but it’s made her well-known and probably cemented her fortune, since she’s been on it since the beginning. Me, I’ve never watched it….And there’s certainly big bucks behind the lavishly produced one woman show that is “Ann”. If only Holland Taylor hadn’t written it herself.

She’s not much of a writer, but here, as an actress, for the first time in her long career, she truly dazzles. Esp. in the long, first introductory section where she is basically directly addressing the audience, as Richards, telling her uber-colorful life story. She really does shine here. And she’s basically quoting sassy, saucy lines that Richards actually said. And in this, she’s quite fine. And funny, too and endearing. You start to love her.

BUT—

She’s so good in this, so much so that when she begins to falter in the second act of the play, and even before that, you feel a sinking frustration that a great theatrical opportunity is being blown here.

“Ann” is just TOOOO long.

The minute Michael Fagin’s stunning set for the Governor’s Office is revealed, then moves forward in space towards Holland/Richards, it’s a dazzlingly theatrical moment, and the first act should’ve end THERE. But no, no. It goes ON and ON for quite sometime where we see Ann As Governor in action, as Ms. Holland takes her seat in the Governor’s chair.

And when she sits down, so does the play. And it never really stands up again. THEN there’s a SECOND act, with basically the SAME territory covered in the Governor’s office setting AGAIN, til I just wish she’d step forward onto the apron, relate directly to the audience and shineshineshine again. Finally she does, and I have to admit I admired Holland Taylor’s pluck, but basically about the time Ann was entering her 7th decade, I felt I had been there just about as long, and was ready for her to ascend into Demoratic heaven. And she does.

Why didn’t she get a PLAYWRIGHT to help her? The EGO of the actress in this regard is overwhelming. And terribly misguided. Or a director to help her shape this unwealdy piece of barnstorming? Benjamin Endsley Klein, whoever HE is, was listed as the director, but it seemed Ms. Taylor was out there flying blind. Oh well. She’s a good enough actress and is having the time of her life bringing the exuberant Ann Richards back to life, to make it worth your while to sit and watch her display herself for two hours. But be warned. You’ll be underwhelmed. But you’ll still like Holland Taylor, but you just wish somebody could’ve said STOP!

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