My bestie and I went to see a show by this name at nearby DCP (Dutch Country Players) Theatre. We knew it was going to have some humor attached, since it was drawn from the life and letters of Ann Landers. In case you’re not old enough to know who this gem (with her identical twin sister) is, here is a little background. Ester Pauline (nicknamed Eppie) and Pauline Ester (nicknamed Popo) were born on July 4, 1918. Both sisters became advice columnists – Eppie as Ann Landers and Popo as Dear Abby.
The tickets were inexpensive as shows go, although DCP Theatre is an independent small venue where actors as well as stage hands, ushers, etc. are all volunteers. Masks were required inside and ticket sales were set at a less than 100% full seating status so both of us felt comfortable.
The show was a monologue, done in two acts. With a 15-minute intermission, it lasted about 2 hours and 20 minutes. As expected, everyone in the audience had multiple eye-roll moments as some of the letters written to Ann Landers couldn’t help but make you think that, in the game of survival of the smartest, these people never even got to the starting gate. Plus, the story acted out takes place in 1975, and we all know that society isn’t nearly as tied into the protocol of what should and should not be said.
Anyhow, the most interesting part of this afternoon out was discovering who Ann Landers was when she was just Eppie Lederer, wife to Jules Lederer and mother to daughter, Margo, as well as twin sister to Popo. I admit to having some fascination with discovering who celebrities and famous people really are when they take away the mask they wear in front of the audiences they ‘entertain’. Maybe my fascination has to do with discovering how many years I myself had been wearing a mask to be (or pretend to be) what people wanted to see me be, but seeing these well-known people have trials and errors in life, experience raw and genuine emotion, just makes me feel closer to them as a person – as a human being.
In 1975, Jules Lederer asked Eppie for a divorce. They had been married 36 years, and as far as we could tell from the story presented on stage, Jules entered a mid-life crisis and fell ‘in love’ with a much younger woman. As we listened to Diane Seader, who so eloquently played the role of Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer, I found myself on the brink of becoming teary-eyed. I could feel the heartache of not only the divorce, but also of having to admit to thousands and thousands of loyal readers that the woman who had been giving relationship advice for all of those years apparently knew nothing. Talk about the sense of ultimate failure!
Having seen this show will excitedly lead me to trying to discover more about the life of Eppie Lederer, and most likely make me look into her twin’s life as well. Who were these two identical twin sisters (born 17 minutes apart, Eppie being the older), born into the Jewish faith in the Bronx and having grown up there, and how did they both end up having, for all intents and purposes, the same career? Was having the same career a result of some genetical make-up or was it based more on sibling rivalry and the need for one-upmanship?
Anyhow, in the end, we learned that the Lady with All the Answers didn’t have all the answers after all. You know what? I think I actually like and admire her more because of that!