The Lady with All the Answers” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ November 17, 2008


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Ann Landers well read lovelorn column made her an institution from 1955 to her 2002 death. But can her straight-forward, no nonsense guidance on how to do everything from hanging toilet paper to the kinkiest sex practices sustain an entire theater performance? Arizona Theatre Company answers this question with a resounding “yes” in “The Lady with All the Answers,” a wonderful inside look at the advice woman.

Playwright David Rambo creates a winning concept to share Landers. We are in her Chicago apartment in 1975 as she struggles with the “hardest column she ever wrote.” After years of condemning divorce, she’s confronting her own dissolving marriage after 36 years.

Does she confess to her readers? It’s a gamble she must take. Like any writer, though, Landers finds reasons to delay the column as old letters sidetrack her but give us a chance to see what Landers thought about many things. The audience becomes her readers as she tells us her philosophies and how she got her job, all told with lots of humor. Most of the words are Landers own. No other characters appear but her vivid descriptions are almost like meeting the myriad of people she knew. At the end, she reads her thoughtfully constructed column to her daughter on the phone.

This play could never succeed without an impeccable Landers portrait, something stage and television star Nancy Dussault delivers superbly. She’s always Ann Landers. Her physical appearance has been tailored so she looks like Landers. She sounds like her and her mannerisms are the perfect reflection of what we remember from Landers in-person and television appearances.

Dussault chats freely and easily with the audience. She takes polls, she asks our opinion, and she shares her private thoughts with us. These are things Landers never did in her columns. “The Lady with All the Answers” gives us new insight into Landers and her success.

The play also takes us to a very emotional place in Landers life. She toured Vietnam during a war she despised. She tells us about spending 10 days greeting wounded veterans and she relates how she made over 2,500 phone calls on their behalf when she returned. Landers never discussed this effort. Between Landers own moving words and Dussault’s touching rendition, you won’t be dry eyed.

Samantha K. Wyer’s fine staging re-creates this icon’s navigation about her apartment and the production’s look is impeccably ‘70s.

“The Lady with All the Answers” is superb theater. It continues through November 30. For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or go online at

Grade: A