"The Lady With All the Answers" meets The Lady With All the Talent
4 out of 4 stars, ALEC HARVEY, The Birmingham News
That's what's happening at Terrific New Theatre, where Dolores Hydock, a magnificent Birmingham actress who is particularly good in one-woman plays, takes the stage as beloved advice columnist Ann Landers.
David Rambo's play, which takes place on a night in 1975 when Landers is writing what she considers her most important column, doesn't have the depth or resonance of his "God's Man in Texas," but Hydock, as usual, has an uncanny connection with her audience and in the end makes the play seem much better than it really is.
During the two-hour show, we're reminded of Eppie Lederer's remarkable story, from her seemingly storybook marriage to her husband, Jules, to her up and down relationship with her equally famous twin sister, Pauline Phillips, better known as Dear Abby. She's preparing a book of her columns, so we hear some of her best work as the events of the night unfold.
There's an appropriate mix of humor and sadness, but Rambo's script doesn't fully satisfy. We want to know more about nearly everything Eppie brings up, from her hobnobbing with presidents to her visits to Vietnam to her relationship with her sister.
It will surprise no one who has seen Hydock on stage to hear that she becomes Eppie Lederer. From the top of her well-known and now dated bouffant to the bottom of her oh-so-ladylike pink shoes, she is every inch Ann Landers, and she more than makes up for any shortcomings in Rambo's script.
Director Carl Stewart lets Hydock do what she does best, tell a story to her audience, and she does so on a beautiful but unassuming set from Austin Carpenter.
Eppie Lederer died five years ago, but for the next few weeks, she's alive and well and dispensing advice at TNT. That it's Dolores Hydock behind the typewriter is all the more reason to listen to "The Lady With All the Answers."