(Mary McNamara’s appeared in the Los Angeles Times, 3/29; Photo: Holland Taylor portrays former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in “Ann” at the Pasadena Playhouse. [Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times.])
As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criminalizes women’s health and support for transgender children while turning his state into a witch-trial system of citizen informants, one has to wonder where, exactly, this man thinks he is going to go when he dies.
He will certainly not have a theatrical afterlife at, say, the Pasadena Playhouse, immortalized by a Tony-nominated, Emmy-winning performer in a brief and shining monument of humor and hope.
That honor belongs solely to Ann Richards, the folksy, firebrand feminist who galvanized the 1988 Democratic convention and, two years later, became only the second, and thus far, last female governor of Texas.
That’s right. A folksy firebrand feminist once sat at the helm of the Lone Star State, and Holland Taylor is determined that we won’t forget it.
“Ann,” the one-woman play Taylor wrote and stars in, was developed at NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, opened at Lincoln Center in 2013 and was supposed to debut in Pasadena in 2020. It was shut down, like so many productions, by the COVID-19 pandemic, making Taylor’s return to the stage that much sweeter.
At Saturday’s ebullient opening night, it was tough to tell which woman the audience appreciated most — Richards, with her famous combination of homespun wit and political grit, or Taylor, who at 79 managed to schedule a reprise of her Tony-nominated role into a schedule bursting with terrific television performances, most lately in “Hollywood,” “The Morning Show” and “The Chair.”
The show, which runs through April 24 and is both its West Coast premiere and its farewell performance, opens with Richards delivering a graduation speech at a non-identified university. (In case the audience needs reminding of who she is, the speech is prefaced by a clip of Richards’ actual convention speech.) When she walks onto Michael Fagin’s spare but evocative set to say — “I know what you thought when I walked on: ‘God she looks good’” — the appreciative roar could have been for Richards, Taylor or both.