Saturday, March 2, 2013

First Lady Fantasy

While Michelle's deep bangs and her Oscar appearance may be getting all the press, a one-woman stage show reminds us First Ladies have been graciously dodging slings and arrows for generations.

Tea for Three, written by Eric Weinberger and performed by Elaine Bromka, is playing to sold-out houses in Key West this weekend. I was able to nab a lone seat in the back row for my first theater visit of 2013.

In the 80-minute show, Bromka portrays the southern charm of Lady Bird Johnson, the regal reserve of Pat Nixon and the relaxed frankness of Betty Ford. She does a good job of capturing some of the mannerisms of each, enough to jog the memory and bring a smile of recognition. Perhaps her best moments are when Lady Bird talks like Lyndon or Pat mimics Dick, flashing a brief impersonation of the presidents and quickly transforming back to the First Ladies.

The script recalls a good sampling of events from the times and the differences between the three women. It's good to recall that Lady Bird, and women of her era, were proud to center their whole life on their husband's identity. Fans from Grand Rapids, would be delighted to hear Betty recalling her years as a model at "Herps." But if Tea for Three were to play Grand Rapids now, the right wing would shudder to recall that their favorite son, Gerald Ford, and his outspoken wife were from a time of  moderate, pro-choice Republicans who supported ERA and women's rights.

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