By Dee Jae Cox
“At age 20 we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” – Ann Landers
It is a major part of the human condition to want someone else to give us the answers and provide us with the solutions to life’s problems. Beginning long before the internet and social media and lasting for almost half a century, no one fulfilled that need more than Ann Landers, aka Esther (Eppie) Pauline Friedman Lederer.
From saving marriages to better understanding gay children, Ann Landers responded to thousands upon thousands of letters seeking guidance and direction and never failed to offer an opinion. David Rambo’s one-woman show, “The Lady With All the Answers,” currently presented by Coyote StageWorks at The Annenberg Theatre, is a slice of life peek into the world of this iconic woman.
Taking place in her Chicago apartment on a night in late June 1975, we are given a glance at Lander’s worldview and her lifetime of experiences traveling and meeting some of the greatest minds of her time. We learn about her writing process and how she came to be the lady with all the answers. I was especially intrigued to gain insight into the rivalry relationship she shared with her twin sister, Pauline Phillips (aka Dear Abby.)
Performing the role of Ann Landers is the incredibly talented singer/songwriter and actress, Gloria Loring. Ms. Loring, best known for her performance on ‘Days of Our Lives,’ as well as her successful musical career as the co-writer/singer for icons shows such as ‘Facts of Life’ and ‘Different Strokes’ and the number one 80’s tune, ‘Friends and Lovers,’ brings an endearing and genuine quality to the role.
Landers was a vital woman in her time. Her life entailed a million moments that affected deep societal change. She engaged with renowned professionals and part of the uniqueness of her column was that she often sought information from the experts she knew in order to provide more informative answers to her readers. Rambo’s script is good, well researched and entertaining. Yet his inclusion of the Linda Lovelace/deep throat story seemed random and appeared to be thrown in more for his own enjoyment rather than an actual reflection of a meaningful life experience for this iconic woman. But it’s really Loring that makes this a must see show. She owns the stage, which is never an easy task for a one-person show in a large auditorium.
Don Amendolia’s stage direction was not inspirational. I found it to be a bit redundant, which is always the challenge when attempting to stage a one-person show and prevent it from becoming stagnant. Josh Clabaugh’s set design was beautiful and perfectly reflected what one would imagine the living environment of a successful writer to be. Moira Wilke’s lighting captured the mood and ambiance of the night and Bonnie Nipar’s costume design encapsulated an elegant woman of the 70’s.
Coyote StageWorks is in its eighth season and they have done some wonderful work. This season was dubbed, ‘Legendary Ladies.’ Founding Artistic Director Chuck Yates indicates on their site that they wanted to honor the influence of women in theater, so this year they selected plays that have strong female leads. A very admirable ambition, though I have to say that the inclusion of at least one show that was actually written by a woman and the hiring of a female director would also have been good additions in an effort to honor the influence of women in theater.
The Lady With All the Answers, can be seen through April 23rd at The Annenberg Theatre, located at 101 Museum Dr., Palm Springs.
For ticket information:
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com.