For almost five decades, she was on intimate terms with millions of Americans and up to ninety million around the globe.  She dispensed advice like a child might click out Pez candies from a Mickey Mouse tube, on topics as diverse as the proper way to roll toilet paper (up and over or back to the wall), what to do about a husband who likes to dress like Cheetah for company, how to cope with the realization who are gay, and how to convince President Lyndon Johnson on why to end the Vietnam War and encourage President Nixon to fund cancer research.

The woman in question is Esther “Eppie” Pauline Friedman Lederer, known by the pen name Ann Landers from 1955 until her death in 2002 at the age of 83.  For a friendly conversation with this chatty advice columnist, who won her job in a contest run by the Chicago Sun-Times, tune in to David Rambo’s intimate portrait “The Lady With All the Answers” playing at Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, March 7.

Charlotte Booker is wonderfully on target as the honest and candid Ann Landers, whose twin sister was Dear Abby, Pauline “PoPo” Esther Friedman Philips.  Sibling rivalry can exist even in the best of families.

On an inviting living room set designed by Adrian W. Jones, Ann Landers speaks directly to the audience as if they are welcome guests in her home and she shares the confidence that she must now write “the most important column of my career.” She then proceeds to procrastinate by eating bonbons, taking a bubble bath, answering the telephone and rereading columns she may select for an upcoming book, anything and everything to avoid sitting at her typewriter.

Intimacies she reveals include her dismay at LBJ for not ending the war and her twelve day visit to the troops to cheer them.  She returned from Vietnam and called the families of the twenty-five hundred men she met.  Her readers, insert “friends,” flooded President Nixon with so many letters he signed the National Cancer Act into existence.  Landers received nine hundred letters a day and personally answered them, but tonight she faces her hardest challenge:  informing her legions of loyal readers that her marriage of thirty plus years to her husband Jules is ending in divorce.  Steve Campo directs this personal portrait of a woman who tried to help the world by providing solutions.

For tickets ($39, 49, 61), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to enjoy the upstairs gallery of “Ann’s America” courtesy of the New Britain Museum of American Art.

David Rambo grew up reading Ann Landers’ advice column with his bowl of corn flakes and he pays tribute to this special lady of letters in this delightful one woman show…which is a far cry from his regular gig as a staff writer for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations.”  Maybe here he is solving a different kind of mystery.


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