The Lady with All the Answers
Judith Ivey channels advice diva Ann Landers.
Mon Oct 19 2009
PLAYING AGAINST TYPE Ivey dashes off sound advice; Photograph: Carol Rosegg
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Dear Ann Landers: I’ve written a bioplay about an advice columnist whose homespun charm and sound wisdom made her an American icon. It’s not bad, but it’s going to need a boost to reel in audiences. Any suggestions?
If the advice-dispensing doyenne were still alive today, she couldn’t offer better guidance than to cast the resplendent Judith Ivey in The Lady with All the Answers. Landers could easily become a caricature: that bouffant hairdo, those dewdrop glasses, that thick Midwestern accent. But aided by director B.J. Jones, who staged David Rambo’s play with Ivey in Chicago last year (not to mention costume designer Martin Pakledinaz and wig designer Paul Huntley), the two-time Tony winner’s portrait is a sharp and amusing tribute to a woman millions of newspaper readers turned to daily for direction about topics ranging from sex to toilet paper.
Set in 1975, this earnest, lightweight solo opens with a fiftyish Landers, ne Eppie Lederer, home in Chicago. Having crusaded against divorce, she must now inform readers that her husband of 36 years has left to be with a younger woman. Eppie regales us with her life and letters, including details of her love-hate relationship with rival column “Dear Abby” and appears well ahead of her time when she assures a suicidal gay teen that he’s not abnormal (that didn’t happen until 1997). Ivey may not have all the answers, but her deft, stirring depiction of a woman coping with heartbreak and her own fallibility eases many a woe.—Diane Snyder
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