Saturday, April 04, 2009

THE Lady With All the Answers

Get some good advice from Ann Landers at CPH; Fusion Fest preview

While sitting in the audience on opening night of ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS,’ the personal story of Eppie Lederer, known to many as Ann Landers, my mind flashed back to when I was a youngster and on Thursday afternoons my maternal grandmother would sit my cousins and I down and read us Bintl Briv, an advice column published in The Jewish Forward newspaper. Tears would flow from her eyes as the counsel was given regarding problems of people, real people in turmoil. They had turned to whom many perceived to be their only source of wise advice.

Ann Landers (Eppie Friedman Lederer) and her twin sister (Dear Abby/Pauline [Popo] Friedman) fulfilled that same role. They were THE two mid-to-late 20th century newspaper advice givers to millions of Americans who found the duo to be a font of information and knowledge.

As competing columnists, the two sisters had a discordant relationship. They publicly reconciled in 1964, but hostility between them persisted. Though they gave advice on how to their lives to millions of readers, they never quite learned how to deal with their own sibling rivalry.

The original "Ann Landers" was Ruth Crowley, a Chicago nurse who wrote the syndicated column from 1942 until her death in 1955. Lederer took over on October 16, 1955 and continued writing until her death. She chose not to have a different writer continue the column.

Lederer sometimes expressed unpopular opinions. She favored legalization of prostitution, wrote in support of equal rights for homosexuals, though she described homosexuality as "unnatural." She spoke out for the rights of women, especially telling those ladies who were being abused by their husbands, to “dump them.”

In her column of July 1, 1975, Lederer wrote, "The sad, incredible fact is, that after 36 years of marriage, Julius and I are being divorced." She received 30,000 sympathetic letters in response.
That divorce is the hub around which ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS’ pivots.

Written by David Rambo in a breezy “let me talk to you” style, the format lets Mimi Kennedy, who plays Eppie, speak directly to the audience. She does so with assurance and ease, and makes a natural presentation that is filled with some light humor, a little pathos, and is gently provocative. Director Seth Gordon let Kennedy do her thing, and she does it extremely well.

Kennedy, who is best known for playing Abby, Dharma’s hippie mom, on the ABC sitcom ‘DHARMA AND GREG,’ is an anti-war activist who emceed Dennis Kucinich’s announcement in his run for the presidency last year.

Tom Burch’s set is elegant, as befits a woman of wealth and good taste, with an keen eye to architectural design and furnishings. Charlotte Yemen’s clothing choices are appropriate.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS’ is a pleasant and informative script which gets a goold production at CPH. It’s a pleasure to watch Mimi Kennedy, in her Ann Landers helmet-like bouffant hair-do, transform herself into Eppie Lederer.