Notes from the Fringe: Ann Landers, Princess Wendy, and naked laughter

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer in "The Lady With All The Answers".

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer in “The Lady With All The Answers”.

It was Hump Day at the Fringe, and that phrase took on a whole new meaning with the two shows I saw last night.

“The Lady With All The Answers”, starring Sinda Nichols, is a one woman show based on the letters of Ann Landers. Written by David Rambo, it’s funny, classy and poignant, and a must see for anyone who ever read the “Dear Ann Landers” column – or had a column stuck on the fridge as a gentle suggestion that there’s a problem that needed to be discussed which no one was really sure how to bring up.

No topic was off limits to Ann Landers, from the appropriateness of doing housework in the nude to the proper way address sexual fantasies with a partner to the mundane dilemma of which way is the proper way to hang a roll of toilet paper (back to the wall, of course). She was the first to discuss homosexuality in a column and to talk about oral sex on television. Of course, less sexually charged topics came up just as frequently – settling family disputes, proper manners, dealing with difficult coworkers.

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers in "The Lady With All The Answers".

Sinda Nichols is Ann Landers in “The Lady With All The Answers”.

The show takes place in 1975 on the eve of a deadline in which Ann – or in her real life Eppie Lederer – is writing the most difficult column in her (to that point) twenty year career. Through the monologue, as well as phone calls from her daughter, sister and husband, we learn more about her marriage, her relationship with her sister (who penned the Dear Abby column), and her trip to Vietnam to visit with the troops, something she didn’t write about in her column.

Ann Landers is portrayed by actress Sinda Nichols who, with wit, class and a bit of sass, gives an up close and personal peek into the life of America’s most famous advice columnist.

Even if you  don’t know who Ann Landers is, don’t let that stop you from checking out the show. I went with my friend Linsay, who’s from Scotland. She had no clue who Ann Landers was but still enjoyed it. You can catch “The Lady With All The Answers” Friday at 6:30 PM and Saturday at 11 AM at the RAPA School of the Arts on Prince Street.

Linsay and me at the Spiegelgarden. Photo credit Erich Camping.

Linsay and me at the Spiegelgarden. Photo credit Erich Camping.

Of course, Linsay and I seem to have fun wherever we are. She’s one of those rare friends who, the moment we lock eyes, we start laughing hysterically even before we start talking.  It’s good to have one of those friends with you when you’re checking out edgy Fringe shows…like Princess Wendy’s Late Night Tease Room.

Confession: I accepted two press tickets to the show with trepidation. The show is described at a “sexy, wicked, wild romp through your own garden of infinite delights” for the 18 and over crowd.

I offered the extra ticket to friends, and everyone kept turning it down. I don’t blame them; I was a bit wary myself, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to see something that might be loads of fun. (The Cabinet of Wonders was magical and this show is by the same folks.) I figured I’d just go alone and if it was raunchy, I’d leave. So Linsay and I decided to head to the Spielgarden to hang out for a while. Then she’d head home while I went to the next show.

The Spiedelgarden at night is a gorgeous place to just hang out. This is "What if" by local artist Scott Grove.

The Spiedelgarden at night is a gorgeous place to just hang out. This is “What if” by local artist Scott Grove.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Spiegelgarden is a lovely place to hang out at night, so we had something to eat (Mexican from the food truck; yum), listened to the City trivia contest (yay for me, I knew a lot of answers even though we weren’t playing, thanks to the research I’m doing for my next book), and ran into several people I’ve met during the week, including photographer Erich Camping, who’s responsible for many of those gorgeous photos the Fringe is sharing.

By 9:30, when the Princess Wendy show was set to start, Linsay had changed her mind and decided to join me. Yay! We were both afraid of being mortified by what we were about to see but, I told her, if we’re mortified at least we’re mortified together. Plus, I added, there can’t actually be nudity, right?

Um. Yeah. So there was also magic and juggling.

Get ready for some dirty fun, ladies. photo credit: John Schlia

Get ready for some dirty fun, ladies.
photo credit: John Schlia

Seriously, Princess Wendy’s Late Night Tease Show is an hour of naughty, risque fun, and more fun than a drunken bachelorette party.

Is there nudity? Yes, actually. Darlinda Just Darlinda performs twice, and both times she ends her routine in a g-string and pasties. The first is a little more comedic; the second sexy. But both were classy, versus a cheap tawdry sex show. Uncomfortable? Yes, if nudity makes you uncomfortable. But dirty? No.

Beautiful Darlinda Just Darlinda. Photo credit: Erich Camping

Beautiful Darlinda Just Darlinda. Photo credit: Erich Camping

Beautiful Darlinda Just Darlinda. Photo credit: Erich Camping

Beautiful Darlinda Just Darlinda. Photo credit: Erich Camping

But mostly, I was just impressed with her as a woman. She’s not a size 2 Barbie doll; she’s a Reubenesque woman who’s clearly comfortable in her own skin, which she displays with carefree ease. She’s sexy and beautiful, and maybe, as women, we need to see more women like Darlinda so we can better recognize our own bodies for what they are: Beautiful. Sexy. Real.

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A little something for the ladies. Photo credit Erich Camping

Darlinda’s male counterpart (I didn’t even hear the name, I was laughing so hard) was really funny; charming with just the right dash of creepiness to make it fun. No nudity, but lots of suggestive dancing that had us rolling with laughter.

Drunken fun with Princess Wendy. Photo credit: John Schlia

Drunken fun with Princess Wendy.
Photo credit: John Schlia

There’s more gorgeousness from aeriel dancer Emily Tucker, as well as comedic juggling, magic, and lots of drunken fun from Princess Wendy (aka Heidi Morgan, the cohost of Cabinet of Wonders; read more here and here). I’m glad Linsay was with me; we laughed and laughed, and even though it was a bit more risque than I’d expected, it’s an experience I won’t soon forget. There’s something freeing about laughing unabashedly with a friend. It would have been no fun to see that show alone.

What happens in the Spiegeltent stays in the Spiegeltent. Photo credit: JohnSchlia

What happens in the Spiegeltent stays in the Spiegeltent.
Photo credit: JohnSchlia

So gather up the girlfriends, have a few glasses of wine, and let loose at Princess Wendy’s Late Night Tease.  The hour long show kicks off every night at 9:30 for the rest of the festival. And remember, what happens in the Spiegeltent stays in the Spiegeltent.

You can find links to all of my posts from the Fringe here.

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