Penned by Landry before he got pedigreed, and directed by James P. Byrne with one eye on crowd-scene management, the other on some pretty lewd double entendre, The Gulls bursts with the leering, infectious energy that makes the Orphans so reliably, rudely entertaining. Long may they endure as our lady-clad lords of misrule, because for Landry to clean up, tone down, or gentrify his act — that would be for the birds.
In David Rambo’s light night of the soul, The Lady with All the Answers (presented by Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater through June 26), iconic advice columnist Ann Landers wrestles a dilemma she can’t beat into submission with a wet noodle. Moreover, it’s her problem, not some reader’s. After 36 years of what she considered an idyllic marriage, her husband (Budget Rental Car founder Jules Lederer) has left her for a much younger woman. As the lady for once bereft of an answer, she feels compelled to break the news to the newspaper faithful, who just may decide that a woman incapable of plugging the dike of her own life is not the one to poke a finger into theirs. But before getting down to the task at hand, Eppie Lederer, the no-nonsense Chicago matron lurking behind the Landers pseudonym, has biography and letters to spew.
CSI writer and producer Rambo’s 2005 one-woman play, which has been produced Off Broadway and around the country, was written with the cooperation of Margo Howard, Lederer’s daughter (and a long-time Cantabrigian). So don’t go looking for dirt to be sprinkled on the self-described “square” whose attitudes toward homosexuality, and, necessarily, divorce loosened up over the 47 years she presided over her widely syndicated column. During the course of a chocolate-fueled all-nighter in July of 1975, the notoriously frank Lederer snipes a little at twin sister and rival columnist Pauline (better known as Dear Abby), but the script skips lightly over the sisters’ ostensible feud. The picture Rambo paints is of a gallant and likable woman, warmly rendered here by Stephanie Clayman sporting an undentable black bouffant and wielding a Midwestern twang even tighter than her hairdo. (The accent slackens in more maudlin moments, but mostly it’s spot-on.)
What we’re doing in Lederer’s elegant lakefront apartment in the middle of the night is unclear, but she welcomes us to all but her bubble bath (which takes place during intermission). It’s clear this is a woman who likes to hold court, issuing edicts on everything from infidelity to how to hang toilet paper as she reminisces, pats herself on the back for deeds ranging from visiting the wounded in Vietnam to strong-arming Nixon into cancer-research funding, and wonders what the world’s coming to when out there somewhere is a man who’s in love with his pony. (His letter to Landers includes a photo of the beast.) For the record, the liberal Lederer of this vintage, who has already shared a TV soundstage with Linda Lovelace of Deep Throat fame, condones just about anything between consenting adults. But to clarify, she adds: “consenting human adults” — so the guy with the pony might be out of luck.