‘Ann’ provides insight into life in the political spotlight

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards was a crackerjack of a woman who not only could swallow and chew gum at the same time, she could also bark out orders to several people all at once and answer hundreds of phone calls a day.

That’s the impression you’ll get when you watch Judith Miller’s finely detailed performance as the firebrand politician in Los Altos Stage Company’s production of “Ann,” playing for three more live-streamed performances Jan 29-31.

Bookending the play is Richards’ talk to the graduating class of Baylor University, her alma mater, in which she describes what it was like to navigate through the Old Boy network to become the governor of Texas in 1991.

It certainly wasn’t easy. She readily acknowledges her own problems with alcoholism (an intervention by her family and friends ended up with Richards going to rehab, which she describes as “drinking school.”) And, though her marriage to civil rights lawyer Dave Richards ended in divorce, it produced four children who were more important to her than politics. Well, almost.

Written by actor Holland Taylor, “Ann” breezes so quickly through parts of Richards’ life—including her early political career as a Texas commissioner and then as state treasurer—that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. But once Richards settles into the governor’s mansion in Austin, both Miller and “Ann” hit their stride.

Wearing a short, pure white wig and a two-piece white suit, Miller doesn’t resemble Richards in the least. Yet when she delivers Richards’ trademark witticisms, she looks right at home. “Ann” includes several down-home Texas witticisms from Richards’ keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, and Miller repeats them wickedly.

But the soul of “Ann” is her four years as the Democratic governor of Texas. Richards can be harsh on staffers like her speechwriter, who repeatedly dodges her phone calls, and pity the unseen assistant in the next room who gets yelled at repeatedly throughout the course of the play. She shows her softer side when she’s taking a call from her longtime friend, President Bill Clinton, or one of her children, and Miller does an exceptional job of helping her audience realize that Richards’ public persona was only one part of this vibrant woman.

The last few minutes of “Ann” are a quick litany of her life after leaving the governor’s office. She only served one term, losing re-election to George W. Bush. Overall, the production gives the audience a sense of the heady rush involved in being a politician.

“Ann” will be livestreamed Jan. 29-30 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 per device plus a $3.29 handling fee at www.losaltosstage.org/livestream-shows.

Source: https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2021/01/25/ann-provides-insight-into-life-in-the-political-spotlight/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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