What is it about liberal Texas political women that makes such entertaining theater? Last season we were treated to Holland Taylor as Texas Governor Ann Richards at the Kennedy Center. This season we have Kathleen Turner as the firebrand columnist Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins at Arena Stage. The latter play does invite brief comparison to the earlier work. Both are one-woman shows about strong very political women who left behind a wealth of insightful commentary on the challenges of becoming a powerful woman in their respective fields coming into their own by breaking barriers in their fields. Both subjects call Texas the home of their heart and soul. And both women are unabashed liberal Democrats.
What sets Red Hot Patriot apart is that Molly Ivins was not a politician, she was a journalist. In fact the play is written by two journalists, Margaret and Allison Engel who in an interview with Arena Stage's Literary Manager in the program attest to their admiration for not only Ms. Ivins' skills and humor as a reporter, but their strong belieft that following her death in 2007 from cancer that they needed to create a one-woman play that would celebrate her eclectic life showcasing not only the ground-breaking journalist but the prolific writer and commentator of forty years of American political life.
Kathleen Turner proves a perfect choice to theatrically honor Molly Ivins. The small Kogod Cradle is the perfect setting for this show. In a larger setting the intimacy that Ms. Turner creates with her audience would be swallowed up. It is essential that Ms. Turner be able to engage with her audiences and she does so in with Texas charm edged with piss and vinegar. Ms. Turner is delivering a vibrant performance that is a testament to no only her abilities as an actress, but the respect and love for Molly Ivins and the material the playwrights have crafted. It is not a perfect show, but in this political town, Red Hot Patriot is the perfect way to laugh heartily at the political scene rather than rant about it, even if for a brief 80 minutes of theater. And to ponder, as one leaves the theater, what would Molly say about it all now.
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins will be performed in the Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage's Mead Center for American Theatre through October 28, 2012. For tickets and other performance information please visit www.arenastage.org.