Young readers might be shocked to learn that, in the not so distant past, the state of Texas had a Democratic governor. Ann Richards called Austin home from 1991 to 1995, just a few years after making a memorable national stage debut at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, and although she only served one term, her political legacy and its impact are considerable. When Richards died in 2006, actress and playwright Holland Taylor was so mired in grief that she channeled her grief into writing a play about the political icon and earning herself a Tony nomination for her performance in the title role.
Local theater icon Bonnie Agan reprises the role of Ann in the play of the same name, directed by Lisa Tricomi and airing at [email protected] until May 8. in giving a speech in front of young people at a university graduation ceremony, we go through moments in the life of the Governor. There are glimpses of her life, both professional and personal, and the milestones she faces as a politician as well as those she faces as a wife, mother and recovering alcoholic. Ultimately, it’s a flattering portrait of a woman so steadfast in her beliefs that she’ll raze everyone from aides to her own children to presidents of the United States (Bill Clinton was a fan), but still for what she believed to be the greatest good: Justice for all, and the engagement of all citizens in civic action.
Pulling off a two-act one-man show is no joke, especially – like in this one – the lines trigger fully automatically. It’s not that “Ann” is a fall-out-of-your-seat comedy, but the woman it’s based on was a fiery, lightning-fast wit who rarely held back what she was thinking. But she’s also devastatingly eloquent and intelligent, we can’t help but feel like the wisdom is on tap as we watch her eviscerate someone.
That is to say, an actor taking on the role has a lot to keep up with, both in terms of the volume of words spoken, but more importantly in making sure Richards stays so likable as she throws some cheek and cheek. notch in all directions to close at two o’clock. Agan handles it, no problem, disappearing so well into character that when our paths crossed right after the show, I honestly tried to find the appropriate greeting for a Governor (I finally remembered: Madam Governor, but she was already gone).
Should the play consist of two complete acts? I’m not so sure. We’d probably get what he has to say in a more economical hour and change, but that shouldn’t put anyone off. Ann has a performance worth watching and an engaging reminder that – believe it or not – politicians are human, many of whom got into the game for the right reasons and some of whom never lost view these reasons.
Anne The [email protected], 620 1st Ave. S. Until May 8: Wednesday to Saturday, at 8 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m. $25; $20, members, thestudioat620.org or call 727-895-6620.
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