The Lady with All the Answers is a pleasant surprise

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Janet Ulrich Brooks as advice columnist Ann Landers in Theatre at the Center’s production of “The Lady With All The Answers” in Munster, Indiana. (Photo: Guy Rhodes)

Review by Carrie Steinweg

MUNSTER, Ind. (August 1, 2018) – I’ve seen a lot of plays at the Theatre at the Center, and I must admit that Ann Landeers: The Lady with All the Answers initially didn’t get me super excited. I really love musicals—and I knew this one wasn’t.

I really didn’t know much about Esther Lederer, who wrote the Ann Landers column for decades—but when you go to see live theater, sometimes its fun to go into it without much background and learn as you go.

Even as someone who wrote columns for many years, I didn’t know much about Lederer or her life, but I found out she was quite a fascinating lady who made a huge impact on the world during her career, which spanned almost five decades. The play is set in 1975, when I would have been a toddler, so much of her career was before my time—but it was a fun blast from the past to watch and listen as she played records on a record player and talked about things that would be foreign to a lot of people today.

I had no idea that it would be a one-person show, but I don’t think anyone could have pulled it off better than Janet Ulrich Brooks. She had the audience riveted as she read letters from readers and pulled the audience into the most intimate parts of her life. As a writer, I could relate to a lot of it—the writer’s block, the late-night writing sessions, the scrambling to meet deadline, the tendency to get easily distracted, chocolate binging as she worked, the work hazard of getting emotionally invested in those you write about.

The show I initially wasn’t all that excited about turned out to be one of the best performances I’ve seen on that stage at the Theatre at the Center! It was a lovely departure from everyday life to step into hers—and it was a couple hours well spent. The play doesn’t run that long. In fact it’s one of the shorter ones I’ve seen at the Munster theater, but while I was there I also took time to peruse the “Making Headlines” exhibit in the lobby from local journalist Phil Potempa’s collection. Potempa and I wrote for the same paper for years, and I have mad respect for the guy. I have always enjoyed following his columns. It was wonderful to get to see pieces of his collection in the exhibit, which is free and situated in the lobby of the Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

The Lady with All the Answers runs through August 12. Potempa’s exhibit runs through September 3. Order your tickets at theatreatthecenter.com.

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