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November 20, 2008

The Lady With All The Answers


Attended The Lady With All The Answers at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Excellent Show.

I was concerned about traffic because of the Thursday night Steeler home game (who ever thought of that, Thursday Night Football?) but it wasn't any problem. We parked at the Smithfield Liberty garage, it was a short walk to the theater, and we were in.

I have never been to the O'Reilly Theater before. I was very impressed at how they built the space, with the stage protruding out into the audience. The curved lines and the two-toned wood panels reminded me of the afterdeck of a sailing ship.

The play was excellent. I'm not a routine theater-goer, and the few one-person plays I've seen too often become focused on the single actor themselves - they're carrying the whole thing, it's so easy to move your focus to the actor's skill - but this play happily avoided that. The actress, Helena Ruoti, was excellent, and she really kept the focus on Ann Landers.

I read an article in the Trib Review about the play, and I was surprised to see that Helena Ruoti lives in Mt. Lebanon. She was very good, seemed comfortable at times interacting with the audience (taking a few informal polls, for instance) and her comedic timing was spot on.

I don't want to give anything away, so let me just say this was really an excellent play. The script was in turn funny, poignant, and informative. Set in 1975, it had all the details right. As in any story set in a particular time, a familiarity with the events of the time are helpful in providing context- when I heard the noise of the IBM selectric typewriter on the stage, it evoked memories of that time and cemented the temporary suspension of disbelief. But When Ann Landers discussed VietNam in the context of 1975, I did wonder how a 23-year-old would interpret it.

At one point, Ann Landers was discussing her attempts to persuade Lyndon Johnson to take US troops out of VietNam. His response was, I'd like to, but I don't know how to do it. It struck me that our new president-elect will face the same situation.

After the play, a brief walk to the garage, and a quick zip out of downtown. I'm always impressed with how easy it is to get in and out of downtown in a car. I recommend the play, it was very well done. This photo (glommed from the Trib Review article) shows Ruoti as Ann Landers and Director Ted Pappas, at Ann Landers' typewriter.

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