Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Show #52 "The Lady With All The Answers" at ACT Theatre

I know I've whined in the past about those theatrical events that our local Equity theatres like to market as "plays." You know what I'm talking about, those one-person talk fests that feel more like (at best) an over-long story that should have ended about an hour before it did....or (at worst) an excruciatingly boring lecture by a senile professor who forgot that (s)he had an actual time limit that must be adhered to.

Yes, I am referring to those one-man or one-woman shows that our "big houses" here in Seattle seem to adore. Audiences seem to like them, too. I wonder why. Usually, I find them boring, sometimes pretentious and in general, not very engaging theatre.

Well, guess what. I found the exception to that rule.

Advice columnist Ann Landers is portrayed by the always entertaining Julie Briskman in a funny, warm and thoroughly engaging evening about the life and love of America's favorite advice-dishing twin.

Unlike other one-person shows, "The Lady With All The Answers" boasted a full set design. Landers' letter-filled office was recreated with charm and visual appeal. There was eye-catching costuming: colorful 1970's outfits complete with Landers' trademark bouffant hairdo. There was even musical interludes, as Landers takes out her collection of LPs and plays a few of them on her stereo turntable.

But what I liked the most was Briskman's Landers herself. Sometimes she read samples of letters sent to her over the years. Other times, she discussed chapters from her life, marriage and career. And then there were moments when the house lights would come up, and Landers would really break that fourth wall and look us straight in the eye.

That was when Ann Landers asked US a question! Us! Imagine that!

Thankfully, none of us in the audience were brought up on stage for some comic "bit." No, she didn't throw confetti at us (a la Carrie Fisher). She even kept us so entertained that ACT Theatre dared to put in an intermission after 45 minutes had gone by. They were sure we would all eagerly return to our seats and watch the rest of the show.

Yep, we did...and boy, that second act was even better than the first.

So......okay. I am now convinced. A one-person play CAN be entertaining and can make good theatre. But all the right elements have to be in place: good story, great acting, an appealing main character, humor, visually effective sets, costumes and sound design.

But that's still not enough. The show has got to have something else. Something that will grab me and make me want to stay until the end. Something that will make me sorry that the evening's end had arrived.

I don't know what that "something" is, but "The Lady With All The Answers" had it.

Graphics courtesy of ACT Theatre


  1. Fait Accompli

    moi, échoué je pense!


  2. I know what you mean. There was a one-person play that met those criteria a few years back at the Intiman, about Buckminster Fuller. People came, raved, came a second time, and the show sold out. In fact, talking with the actor afterwards, he said the show sold out pretty much everywhere he went.

    I think it is because, in the Fuller piece, you got to see a person grow up before your eyes -- and, grow ALL the way up. To go from a fumbling person like any of us, with the same or worse problems, and then one step at a time, gradually unfurl into his full fruitful promise as a wise mature human being. There was no trick. It happened in front of you. And yet, it does not always happen in real life.

    I have never forgotten this show.

    Rachel Rutherford