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Coyote StageWorks’ The Lady With All the Answers, a play by David Rambo, offers an inside look at the life of advice columnist Ann Landers.

Landers was part of American popular culture for decades, offering words of wisdom on everything from marital troubles to the proper method for hanging toilet paper. What many may not know is that the woman most of us know as Ann Landers was not the first Ann Landers.

Back in 1955, Landers (born Esther Pauline Friedman, or “Eppie”) was a comfortable wife and mother to one daughter. She began reading the original Ann Landers advice column in the Chicago Sun-Times. Not overly impressed, Landers called the paper, asking if she could help the columnist answer some of her mail. It turns out the original answer lady, a nurse named Ruth Crowley, had just died, and the paper was looking for a replacement. Eppie got the gig—which led to fame, fortune and the nickname “The Answer Lady.”

The multi-talented Gloria Loring stars as Landers, and she is terrific. Impeccably dressed and coiffed in a bouffant wig, Loring comes across as classy and elegant, yet down to earth, just as Landers herself was. She roams about her lovely Chicago apartment (the set is superb), alternately sharing letters from previous readers, answering new ones, and reminiscing about her life and career.

We learn that while shopping for bridal veils for a double-wedding with her twin sister Pauline (who later became Dear Abby), Landers fell for the salesman and later married him after breaking off her engagement. And many folks may not be aware of just how politically active Eppie was: An avid Democrat, she went to Washington, D.C., as a young wife and got to know Hubert Humphrey, Justice William O. Douglas and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower. When she later quoted them all in her columns, her editor worried the paper would be sued for fraud—until Landers assured him that these men were indeed her friends. Landers was vehemently against the Vietnam War, and frequently told Lyndon B. Johnson that the U.S. needed to get out of the conflict. He would look at her sadly and reply, “I know, Eppie, I know.” She visited hundreds of hospitals in Vietmam, and spent hours calling soldiers’ families with words of comfort and reassurance.

Though Ann Landers counseled the masses through marital discord—likely saving many marriages—she could not save her own. When, after 30-plus years of wedded bliss, her husband confessed to a three-year affair with a much-younger woman, Landers simply announced: “This marriage is over.” Her struggle to appropriately share this news with her readers in a column drives The Lady With All the Answers.

Loring is known as an actress on Days of Our Lives, as a singer on her No. 1 hit “Friends and Lovers” with Carl Anderson, as the author of several books including Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, and for her philanthropy in the field of biomedical research after her son was diagnosed with diabetes. Here, Loring effortlessly conveys Landers’ warmth and humor. Her interactions with the audience are quite entertaining, particularly her surveys on how to hang toilet paper and a discussion on teenage sexual experimentation.

Loring has a great stage presence and perfect diction. Carrying a one-person show is not easy, but she knocks it out of the park. She is particularly effective in moments of silence, letting the previous moment sink in before moving on to the next revelation. We feel her pain when discussing her divorce, yet she’s always dignified and in control.

Much credit also goes to director Don Amendolia, who elicits a spot-on performance from Loring and keeps the play moving along while maintaining a sense of intimacy.

If you’re someone who must have huge productions like Les Miserables, then The Lady With All the Answers may not be your cup of tea. But for those who love quiet, intimate, thought-provoking theater, it’s just the ticket.

The play allows us to really get to know Ms. Landers, a woman always spoke her mind. Now, one bit of advice from me: Go see Coyote Stageworks’ The Lady With All the Answers at the Annenberg Theater. It’s darn good.

Coyote StageWorks’ The Lady With All the Answers is performed at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 15; 2 p.m., Sunday, April 16; 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 19; 2 p.m., Thursday, April 20; 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 21; 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 22; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 23, at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $45 to $60, and the show runs 105 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets or information, call 760-325-4490, or visit www.annenbergtheater.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

October is here, and in theory, we should begin to get some relief from the oppressive heat.

In theory.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has two excellent events coming up that you probably shouldn’t miss. First, the Experience Hendrix Tour will be coming through at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11. The lineup is packed with big names, including Buddy Guy, Billy Cox, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang and many others. As you can probably guess from the name, the tour pays homage to Jimi Hendrix, and has been going for more than a decade. Tickets are $29 to $69. And now for something completely different: Cheech and Chong and WAR will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24. Cheech and Chong are the comedy world’s biggest stoners, of course, thanks in part to films such as Up in Smoke, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, and Nice Dreams. And if anybody asks, Dave’s not here, man. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has two fine events scheduled. The Beach Boys will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3. Former Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson came through the Coachella Valley in late August, so a performance by the Beach Boys should be a nice follow-up; however, keep in mind that technically, Mike Love is the only original member of this group of Beach Boys, although Bruce Johnston, a touring member since 1965, is also part of the lineup. There’s no word on whether or not John Stamos will be performing on the drums. Tickets are $45 to $75. Creedence Clearwater Revisited will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17, featuring Creedence Clearwater Revival members Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums). The group formed in 1995 to play a couple of shows that a friend of theirs wanted to put on—and then they decided to tour. This did not sit well with Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty; Fogerty filed suit against Cook and Clifford, forcing them to perform under a different name until the courts ruled in favor of Cook and Clifford. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth mentioning. They’re back: Thunder From Down Under returns to Morongo at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3. Tickets are $25. If mostly naked men aren’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that Paquita la del Barrio will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24. The renowned singer has been fighting sexism in Mexico since 1970—and she’ll put you on the spot if you give her any flak. This is a show definitely worth checking out. Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

The Purple Room reopened as The Purple Room Restaurant and Stage just before Labor Day. Machin’, The Judy Show and The Michael Holmes Trio still have their usual weekly residencies, and the fine folks there have added the David Ring Duo on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. They play jazz and old favorites from the American Songbook. There is no cover. The Gand Band will be ending their snowbird season in Chicago and returning to the Purple Room at 8:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3. Tickets are $10. The Gand Band is also leading some themed events in October, such as Tiki Chic on Friday, Oct. 10, and an ’80s Halloween on Friday, Oct. 31. The Purple Room Restaurant and Stage, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Copa in Palm Springs has a full calendar in October. At 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 2, and 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3, Suzanne Westenhoefer will be appearing. Known as a panelist on GSN’s I’ve Got a Secret, and for her LOGO Television comedy special A Bottom on Top, this lesbian comedian will have you laughing for sure. Tickets are $20 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11, Gloria Loring will be stopping by. The actress and singer has released several albums and helped compose the theme songs for Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. Fun fact: She was married to Alan Thicke—and is Robin Thicke’s mom. Tickets are $40 to $60. Jazz singer/songwriter Tony DeSare will be appearing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 18. DeSare’s songs have appeared in films such as The Tooth Fairy and My Date With Drew. Tickets are $20 to $40. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has booked several great shows. Dawes will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11. The Los Angeles folk-rock band has played the late-night talk shows, performed with Jackson Browne at an Occupy Wall Street event, and received acclaim from critics and fans alike for their albums. Tickets are $25. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, The New Pornographers (above) will be performing an outdoor show. The band’s blend of pop and indie-rock has made them popular since they formed in 1999. If that’s not enough to convince you, consider the lineup: Neko Case, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine, John Collins of The Evaporators, Todd Fancey of Limblifter, and independent filmmaker Blaine Thurier. Wow. Tickets are $30. Tycho with Com Truise will be at Pappy’s at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26. Tycho is a well-known ambient-music artist and producer, and Com Truise is a solid name in dance music. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hard Rock Hotel’s schedule is heating up. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24, it will be “Dive-In Movies” night, with the Palm Springs Film Society screening the Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense, in the pool area. It’s a perfect pairing of venue and film, isn’t it? Admission is free. BB Ingle will be having his Annual Halloween Bash at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 31. I can vouch for the fact that it’s a lot of fun. Tickets are $20 in advance, or $30 at the door; 21 and older only. Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9676; www.hrhpalmsprings.com.

Bar is hosting a special event at 9:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 9. The Rebel Noise will be playing the first show of the band’s California tour for the hometown crowd. Also on the bill are CIVX and former War Drum guitarist John Marek. Admission is free. Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-537-7337; www.barwastaken.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has two events that should not be missed. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3,punk veterans Guttermouth will be returning to The Hood. The controversial and humorous punk band puts on an excellent show. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 31, the Koffin Kats (below) will be stopping by for a Halloween show. The Detroit psychobilly group’s performance would be a perfect way to celebrate Halloween. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed is back with an encouraging calendar of events going into 2015. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11, rapper and producer Warren G will be performing. In 1994, his song “Regulate” was a major hit. Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Here’s some advance notice about an early-November event: Celebrate the Day of the Dead on Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, at the Dia De Los Muertos festival in Coachella, at Rancho Las Flores Park. Scheduled to perform are Chicano Batman, Noel Torres, Banda Nachos, La Santa Cecilia, La Bikina and others. There will be food vendors, art exhibitions, and many other things Day of the Dead. This is a great event for all ages. Tickets start at $20. Rancho Las Flores Park is located at 48350 Van Buren St. in Coachella. For more information, visit www.diadelosmuertosusa.com.

Published in Previews

For me, it was a one-shouldered floral pink tunic.

I wore it to the premiere of an independent film in which I was featured. Accompanying me that evening was an older female producer friend I was living with while she recovered from an injury.

The film, alas, was a bomb; the friend, who had always been competitive with me, seemed to enjoy my humiliation. At the after-party, I discovered she had betrayed me professionally in a huge way. We had a screaming fight on the way home. I moved out the next day, and our friendship was over.

I could never bring myself to wear that pink top again.

Nearly every female has a similar emotionally charged story or two about articles of clothing, which is part of what makes Coyote StageWorks’ Love, Loss, and What I Wore so satisfying. Men (straight men, at least) may not get it, but women do: What we’re wearing during a major life-changing event can never be separated from the event itself.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore, written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, is based on a book by Ilene Beckerman. The play is a series of monologues using a cast of five women. When it was produced off-Broadway in 2009, the cast included Tyne Daly and Rosie O’Donnell. In 2010, it won the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite New Off-Broadway Play.

The five women, all dressed in black, sit on chairs downstage and occasionally refer to their scripts while relaying tales of first dates, bad marriages, divorce, death and fashion-challenged mothers.

Gingy (Gloria Loring) serves as the narrator. Gingy shares with the audience the way her wardrobe has marked important times in her life—starting with her Brownie uniform—and how easily such memories can be triggered. We learn of her three marriages, the death of one of her six kids (“Your son has expired,” the hospital tells her in a phone call), and her contentment in becoming a grandmother.

Loring—known to many as Liz Chandler on Days of Our Lives, to others for singing the hit duet “Friends and Lovers” with Carl Anderson, and to yet others as the mother of pop-sensation Robin Thicke—is wonderful. She exudes warmth and humor throughout the production, and pulls off the dramatic moments with skill. (Her breezy handling of a malfunctioning microphone at the top of the show on opening night set just the right tone.)

Mo Gaffney, who plays Gingy’s mother, among other characters, is hilarious. One of the evening’s highlights is her diatribe on purses, and how she can never keep hers tidy and organized. Her description of a friend who was trapped in a Paris café during a rainstorm so her $6,000 Grace Kelly handbag wouldn’t get ruined is priceless. Gaffney, a stage and film veteran, is the definition of a seasoned professional.  She’s magical onstage and makes it look easy.

Olympic gymnast-turned-actress Cathy Rigby is also terrific in multiple roles. She’s vulnerable and effective in a scene with Bets Malone as her lesbian lover, during which the two are deciding what to wear for their wedding. At another point, she recalls every stitch of clothing her character had on when she followed an abusive boyfriend to Seattle, begged him repeatedly to stay, and then finally mustered up the guts to dump the jerk.

Though not as well-known as the headliners, Malone is an amazingly versatile actress. She makes the most of a vignette comparing the loss of a favorite shirt to the end of a romantic relationship (“I just had to cherish the time I had with the shirt and move on”) and rivets us as a cancer survivor who decides to get a tattoo on her reconstructed breast.

Rounding out the cast is Elaine Hayhurst, also in several roles, including the girlfriend of a Chicago gang member. She shines in bits about choosing between wearing high heels or “thinking” shoes, and the trauma of having an unwanted audience of saleswomen help her buy a new bra. (All five women share amusing dressing-room angst: ”Oh my God, my butt fell!” and “This doesn’t fit, but I always lose weight in May.”)

Director Toni Kotite brings out the best in the cast. Each actress creates believable, likable characters whose stories draw us in, and the chemistry among the group is genuine. The tasteful lighting and simple set are perfect. Artistic director Chuck Yates once again has turned in a top-notch piece of theater, with a stellar cast and fabulous production values.

One of my pet peeves when attending plays these days is the tendency for audiences to jump to their feet at the end of every show, even when it’s mediocre or just plain awful. But the standing ovation Coyote StageWorks’ production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore received the night I saw it was richly deserved.

This play will make you laugh and cry—and perhaps make you wonder why you’re REALLY hanging on to those bell bottoms from junior high.

Coyote Stageworks’ Love, Loss, and What I Wore is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, through Saturday, April 5, at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs. Tickets are $39 to $55, and the running time is 90 minutes, with no intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-4490, or go to www.annenbergtheater.org

Published in Theater and Dance