As “Ann” makes abundantly plain, Ann Richards’s greatest achievement was being Ann Richards. This article of faith propels Holland Taylor in her remarkably realistic embodiment of the late Texas governor, a passionate Democrat, savvy networker and, most important for this engaging if sugarcoated homage stopping at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, a folksy raconteur of the first rank.
“Ann,” written by Taylor — a face familiar from her many film and TV roles, especially on CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” — is not an account of an especially historically significant life. If some other shows in the monodrama category have by nature of their subjects (Mark Twain, Harry Truman, Emily Dickinson, Thurgood Marshall) seemed concise versions of multi-volume biographies, Taylor’s play, which had its formal opening Wednesday night, feels more like something on the scale of an admiring magazine profile.
Its limitation is that there’s not much political drama in this dramatic politician’s story: a one-term governorship, a speech at the 1988 Democratic convention with its starmaking zinger at the expense of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush (“He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!”). Her clever phraseology is more memorable than her deeds and, as a result, the piece doesn’t have a powerful context — at least not enough of one for the ambitious structure of two full acts.