Ann and Café Fiorello

You don't have to remember Governor Ann Richards to love “Ann.”Creatures from Outer Space who happen upon Lincoln Center and buy tickets to this show, with no knowledge of Texas gubernatorial history, will fall under her spell too.

Holland Taylor wrote the snappy play and has been performing Ann Richards for years. She’s made up to look exactly like her, in a copy of Richards’ white Chanel suit and stiff white hairstyle. Her friend the humorist Molly Ivins said the hair made her look like a Republican. She was anything but conservative—a left-wing Democrat, feminist and supporter of gay rights. Richards’ vote against a concealed weapons bill lost her re-election. She said, half facetiously, that gun owners should wear their guns on a chain around their necks so we all could see.

Though many thought Richards, who married a civil rights lawyer at age 19 and had four children, was later in life a lesbian, Taylor doesn’t take it up. Perhaps the inevitable movie version of “Ann” will. We never see the chain-smoker, nor does Taylor’s Gov. Richards thrillingly recite the fifty states (perhaps it wouldn’t work in the theatre) as she did as keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic convention—an indelible moment in US history. But who can quibble with the electrifying performance Holland Taylor pulls off?

She’s delivering a graduation address when we meet her, and later, we get to hang out with Gov. Richards in her office, where she spars wittily with her staff and has provocative phone conversations with then President Bill Clinton. The charismatic Holland Taylor isn’t didactic in the least, and her play is good to the last drop, followed by a thundering standing ovation. Theatre Row Review will have to backtrack: We’d earlier predicted Laurie Metcalf for the Best Actress Tony, but now we think it will be a dead heat with Holland Taylor.

Lincoln Center is surrounded by restaurants. The one directly in front, Fiorello, is one of the busiest and moderately priced. If you’re alone, the antipasto bar is a congenial place to sit and mingle with people on their way to the ballet, the philharmonic, Film Center, and the theatres. Or get a table outdoors – in cool weather, heated. One evening the weather turned chilly, and we were offered blankets. Choose from about forty antipastos on display. Entrees include their signature lasagna, thin as a kringle, big enough to share, and a personal pizza with paper-thin crust that overlaps the plate. On the way out, complimentary dark chocolate with sea salt – your night at the opera might call for it.