Holland Taylor (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)
Actress Holland Taylor's portrayal of Ann Richards, the brassy blue governor of the red state of Texas, made its Broadway debut Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
The one-woman show, simply titled "Ann," spans Richards' Depression-era Texas youth and her rise from housewife to outspoken political powerhouse.
Taylor, who also penned the play, spent four years researching "Ann," which also marks the Emmy-winning actress' return to Broadway after three decades.
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"I knew I had to get the persona, what made everybody so nuts for her, rather than the policy or the politics," Taylor recently told The Times. "I'm not writing history. I'm spotty on actual information. But I knew if I got her essence, then I'd get what she stood for, because that's what drove her, what made the connections through the heart."
The first reviews from New York were mixed: Critics enjoyed seeing the late governor's larger-than-life persona back in the spotlight, but felt the story of "Ann" was short on depth.
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote that in the words of the "plain-talking Richards," this is a "one-dynamo show," adding that it is "neither a shapely work of drama nor a deeply probing character study. But admirers of Richards probably won’t give a darn." He added that Taylor is "essentially just giving this beloved dame one more chance to bask in the spotlight."
The Village Voice’s Michael Musto wrote that Taylor, in "head-to-toe white" is "splendid," capturing Richards' "humor, decency and abrasive energy." But he added that "there's a whole lot of talk here, and some of it seems comical without accumulating dramatic impact ... even Ann Richards must have had an off moment." Musto concluded that the play was short on "conflict -- and moods" but "if you miss the public spectacle that was Ann Richards, she's definitely back."
Elysa Gardner of USA Today wrote that Taylor has "crafted a deeply affectionate, often clever tribute that provides more than a few laughs” but that the "comedy can become tedious." And that Richards is treated "much like a sitcom character" in that her "notable achievements are alluded to ... but in ways that are both simplistic and pedantic."
Newsday's Linda Winer wrote that Taylor is plenty feisty as the political pioneer, but that the solo show lacks "conflict, tension or even an unusual form to complement the unexpected arc of Richards' unusual life."
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