Before her death in 2002, Ann Landers wrote an advice column that ran in The Blade for decades. Her no-nonsense answers often included the phrase "Wake up and smell the coffee, bub."
But who was Ann Landers, and how did she come up with her advice?
Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater offers some insight with its entertaining production, The Lady with All the Answers, which runs weekly through June 9 on the Perrysburg stage.
Directed by David Sollish, the one-woman show features Pat Rudes. Rudes, a veteran Toledo actress, has the ability to put aside her own personality and become the character, whether it's a card-playing senior citizen (The Gin Game), a sweet spinster with a taste for murder (Arsenic and Old Lace), or a southern socialite (Steel Magnolia).
Rudes does no less with Lady.
The action takes place on one night in 1975 in the study of the Chicago home of Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, publicly known as Ann Landers.
Eppie is having trouble with her latest column, which is due at the newspaper in the morning. She gets distracted easily and talks about the uneasy relationship she has with her twin sister, Pauline, known to the family as "Popo" and to the public as "Dear Abby" ("Blood may be thicker than water, but it also boils faster").
She says that the secret to her success lies not in her brain but in her "chutzpah and a [heck] of a Rolodex." In the early days of her marriage to Jules Lederer, a traveling salesman who ultimately founded Budget Rent-A-Car company, she lived in Wisconsin, where she developed an antipathy to Sen. Joe McCarthy and became involved in politics because of it. She ended up a county Democratic Party chairman, which often took her to Washington and put her in touch with influential people, including future vice president Hubert Humphrey and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. These are the sorts of people on her Rolodex, and she does not hesitate to consult them.
One-person shows are tricky. The character, by necessity, is speaking directly to the audience, which is an affectation from the start. But Landers spoke directly to her audience every day through the letters she answered in a column that was, at the height of its success, printed in 1,200 newspapers
And so it doesn't seem odd that Rudes, as Landers, is talking to us, sharing letters from the silly (doing housework in the nude) to the sad (a frightened teen suspects he's gay) and the frivolous (the proper way to hang toilet paper) to the serious (the need for money for medical research).
Even as Landers comes to grips with problems in her personal life, The Lady with All the Answers takes the audience on a tour of a changing cultural landscape. One of the most poignant scenes is when she recalls visiting U.S. military hospitals in Vietnam.
Another hilarious vignette recalls her meeting with porn star Linda Lovelace.
With its frank talk about sex, homosexuality, and other topics, the show isn't for children. For the rest of us, it's an entertaining production, well-suited to Ms. Rose's small stage, Rudes' considerable talents, and Landers' fascinating life.
"The Lady with All the Answers" continues in Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater, 25740 North State Rt. 25, Perrysburg. Performances are at 8 p.m. tomorrow, 5 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. May 25 and June 1, 2, 8, and 9. Doors open two hours before the show for the buffet meal. Tickets are $43. Information: 419-874-8505.
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