The Lady With All the Answers

By staff July 16, 2007




Florida Studio Theatre turns to advice columnist Ann Landers.


By Kay Kipling


One-person shows are popular but tricky options for playwrights and theaters. Audiences are drawn to see real-life people portrayed onstage in a format that feels intimate and close-up, but too often the plot development ends up being “And then I did this” followed by “what came next.”


David Rambo’s The Lady With All the Answers doesn’t stray far from the predictable, perhaps even pedestrian formula. But it has two advantages: First, it’s about a woman we haven’t really seen onstage before—advice columnist Ann Landers—and second, her relationship with her readers quickly turns into her relationship with the audience, as Landers (Carolyn Michel) not only shares her own story but interacts with those she’s talking to on subjects ranging from toilet paper to infidelity.


The setup is simple: It’s 1975, and Landers (real name, Eppie Lederer) is at home in her Chicago apartment struggling to finish the toughest column she’s ever had to write. That’s because it’s personal; the woman who’s given advice to countless readers about, among other things, how to save their marriages, has come to the end of her own with her husband of more than 30 years, Jules.


As she writes, she’s interrupted by phone calls from daughter Margo, sister Pauline (aka Dear Abby), and her own side trips down Memory Lane. She’s also at work on a book of her favorite columns, which gives those who read Landers religiously for the 40-plus years her advice ran in the daily newspaper a chance to relive the highlights—and those who didn’t a chance to get to know the practical, down-to-earth opinions of a woman who found herself changing with the times in regard to issues of sexuality and morality.

Carolyn Michel in Florida Studio Theatre's The Lady With All the Answers.


Actress Michel is in many ways a natural choice to play Landers (especially with the addition of a Landers-like bouffant wig). And she certainly knows how to play to the audience. She gets Landers’ distinctive flat voice and that slight twist of the mouth right at the outset (although they come and go somewhat during the evening), but more importantly she convinces us of Landers’ bond with her readers, her love for her family and her convictions about doing the right thing (as for example visiting wounded soldiers in Vietnam, despite her opposition to the war there, and making phone calls home for them). All in all, watching The Lady With All the Answers is like spending a comfortable evening with an old friend.


The Lady With All the Answers runs through July 29 on Florida Studio Theatre’s mainstage; call 366-9000 or visit for tickets.


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