While disappointed and discouraged demonstrators protested the passage of Prop 8 in West Los Angeles on Thursday, November 6, in Pasadena Mimi Kennedy was channeling pioneering advice columnist Ann Landers who in 1956 responded sensitively to a troubled teen’s letter. A newspaper in Michigan threatened not to run the column which was openly supportive of the 15-year-old’s struggle to accept his homosexuality.
From 1955 until her death in 2002, Eppie Lederer, writing as Ann Landers, was a witty, compassionate and practical part of global, and especially, American culture. Her column was syndicated around the world with dedicated readers sending her thousands “snailmail” letters each day. Her beloved columns were posted on refrigerators and bulletin boards across the country. In a box of keepsakes in my garage there are a few of Ann’s humorous and sage clipped columns sent to me by my late mother.
Through the years Lander’s columns took on the character of a conversation with her readers, so it was only natural that David Rambo wrote this one-woman show as a conversation with Kennedy and the audience. Written with the permission and assistance of Lederer’s daughter Margo Howard and set in 1975, the play offers an intimate, informative and delightful evening at the theater. As the play begins, the prolific adviser is caught up in a struggle to write her most difficult column to date.
Kennedy, who has a long list of theater, film and television credits, including Abby, Dharma’s hippie mom on “Dharma and Greg,” engaged the audience from start to finish. She revealed the depth and breadth of her acting skills in her spot-on performance of the mid-Western identical twin whose copycat sister, Popo, started writing her own Dear Abby advice column six short months after her sister.
Pasadena Playhouse Scenic Designer Gary Wissmann created another gem of a set design, evoking an elegant 1970s home with uncanny accuracy. Brendon Fox directed the show with finesse and fondness. Costume design by Holly Poe Durbin, wig design by Carol F. Doran and dialect coaching by Joel Goldes contributed to Kennedy’s flawless recreation of Landers who often appeared as a guest on television talk shows.
Whether it was current financial woes or lack of glitz associated with “The Lady with All the Answers,” there were far too many empty seats in the audience. But this show, which continues through November 23 really deserves large audiences! With all the belly laughs and poignancy, it leaves theatergoers feeling better when they leave than when they arrived.
To order tickets, call 626.356.7529. Mention the code LADY to receive $25 tickets. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena.
By Candyce Columbus