Dear Ann Landers:
I never thought I would be writing this to you, but it seems that no one else will listen to me. Last night, I went to see a play at the Pasadena Playhouse about you called “The Lady With All The Answers”. It featured you (or an actress purporting to be you — see, we all have a fantasies, but I know you know that — you shared the letters) reading a number of your letters. This sharing with the audience seemed to be a delaying tactic while you were trying to write your 1975 letter where you told of your divorce from your husband of 36 years, Julius Lederer. I wonder what you would say about someone who keeps putting off what needs to be done? Anyway, while putting off the inevitable, we learned a little about growing up with your identical twin (you were Esther Pauline (“Eppie”), and she was Pauline Esther (“Popo”)), your rivalries (you started your column first, she copied you when she started “Dear Abby”). We learned a bit about Julius. But we learned most about your readers — and their obsession with sex, marriage,… and toilet paper (and how it should be hung from the roll). You presented your life as a series of anectdotes and letters, and although we learned about you in snippets, something was missing.
Ann, I’m sure you’ve seen plays. After all, Chicago, where you live, has some excellent theatre. What would you think of a play that was mearly anecdotes, told by one person standing in an apartment, occasionally typing away without saying anything to an audience? What would you say about a comedy that was mild? What would you say about a play that really didn’t have a dramatic arc? Even comedies show some growth of the main character — look at how Oscar and Felix grow in The Odd Couple, or how the main characters grow in The Constant Wife. The only plays without growth are farces — and your life wasn’t a farce. Your growth, according to the play, was accepting premarital sex. It was unsatisfying. But this seems to be the style of the author who dramatized your story, David Rambo, who also wrote Tea At Five. He does good at CSI:, but I’m not sure about this.
But Ann, you always said to see the good, not the bad. There was some good here. You were played by Mimi Kennedy, who seemed to capture that midwestern style (although I’m unsure about the midwestern Jewish-ness). She had your looks down, thanks to the costumes by Holly Poe Durbin and the hair design by Carol F. Doran. She even had the right Chicago accent, thanks to dialect coach Joel Goldes. This wasn’t a dramatic part, but she did a credible job of capturing your humor and what I’m guessing was your style (as we’ve never met). That may be due to the direction of of Brendon Fox. You (or should I say “She” — I’m getting confused here) spent the entire play in your apartment in Chicago, which was beautiful, thanks to the scenic design of Gary Wissmann, who has done a number of Playhouse Productions.
I know, Ann, that you’re going “Where’s the question, bub?” Just hold on, because I’m still giving you the background of what I saw. I did think the lighting design was weak: all white lights, primarily the lights that you had in the apartment… plus a follow spot for your interview with Linda Lovelace. This design was by Trevor Norton — and I guess it fit the show because of the weak nature of the book. At least the sound design, by Lindsay Jones was transparent (as a good sound design should be), as was the stage management by Lea Chazin assisted by Hethyr Verhoef (I particularly liked updating the time on the clock, and actually finding a working electric typewriter). As you treasure honesty, Ann, I should note that the actors and stage managers are members of Actors Equity.
So, Ann, on to the question. As a hobby, I write theatre reviews. I hope that people read them and enjoy them, but I rarely get feedback on them. Should this bother me? Am I just being a comment whore?
I look forward to your reply.
Ignored in Northridge
P.S. I’m sure you want to know what I’ll be reviewing in the future. Next Friday night we go to the the Ahmanson for “Spring Awakening”. The following Friday brings the last show of the RepEast season, “And Then There Were None”. December 4th, 5th, and 6th brings “Scapino” at Van Nuys High School (with nsshere doing the lighting). Although I won’t be there, the following weekend brings the winter show at Nobel Middle School. Lastly, I still hope to explore tickets for “I Love My Wife (Reprise), which only runs 12/2-12/14 — right around the dates of ACSAC, so it may not work out. We’re still working on our schedule of theatre for 1Q09; suggestions are welcome.