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Theater Review: 'Ann' -- 2.5 stars

Holland Taylor in "Ann"

Holland Taylor in "Ann" Credit: Holland Taylor in "Ann"

2.5 stars

"Ann," a warmhearted but unwieldy one-woman show written by and starring Holland Taylor as the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, brings back to Broadway the age-old genre of straightforward, biographical solo drama.

Richards, who passed away in 2006, rose to fame after delivering the keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention.

Although she only served a single term as governor (having been defeated by George W. Bush), she is fondly remembered as a freethinking, sarcastic, divorced, formerly alcoholic, female politician in characteristically conservative Texas.

Taylor, who last appeared on Broadway in the notorious 1983 flop "Moose Murders," is best known for playing mother roles, including on the sitcom "Two and a Half Men."

The two-hour show is based on Taylor's research and conversations with those who knew Richards. She deserves a lot of credit for spearheading the project, which first played various regional theaters.

It begins with Taylor speaking at a college commencement. After telling a dirty joke or two, she thinks back on her childhood and how she got into politics.

By the end of the first act, Richards has become governor and an elaborate new set materializes that depicts her office. At this point, Taylor stops talking to the audience and instead to various staffers and even Bill Clinton via intercom or phone.

As written, "Ann" is so intent on conveying Richards' personality and sharing her anecdotes that it fails to provide a coherent narrative. It is also too sentimental in tone, especially its ending.

The show would also be better suited for a more intimate theater rather than the extended thrust stage of the Vivian Beamount at Lincoln Center.

Still, Taylor gives a dynamic turn that ought to please Democrats and Republicans, Southerners and Northerners alike.

If you go: Ann plays an open run at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. 150 W. 65th St., 212-239-6200, theannrichards

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