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BWW Reviews: Kathleen Turner Replicates the Excessively Open Political Wit of Molly Ivins

Red Hot Patriot
written by Margaret Engel & Allison Engel
directed by David Esbjornson
@ the Geffen Playhouse
through February 12

What sheer bliss when an actor and role are made for each other! Such is the case with Kathleen Turner and now deceased journalist Molly Ivins, known for never holding back on what she thought about the political machine and the men who run it. In her eyes they were morons, pure and simple. Now in all-out frank and devilishly entertaining look at Ivins' take on Houston, Texas and the world, Margaret and Allison Engel's Red Hot Patriot docks securely at the Geffen until February 12, directed with razor-sharp precision by David Esbjornson and boasting a fast and furious performance from Turner.

Ivins' keen eye had an unabashed, infectious humor. Referring to a senator from the Lege (legislature), she quipped, "If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice daily". And she renamed the second George Bush Shrub. These are but two examples of Ivins' piquant wit put forth in the Engels' script, which covers quite an ample territory during the course of the 75 minute seemingly stream.of.consciousness expose. It's a panorama of events and characters from the end of the Viet Nam War all the way through the 70s, 80s, 90s to the Iraq War, not including the Obama administration, as Ivins died at 62 from the effects of breast cancer in 2007. Let's say she has a little to say about a lot of people/things onstage, but that little amount is enough to give a clear perspective of what made the marverick tick. Born the daughter of a general, Ivins never faced off with her dad, but instead conveyed rebelliousness through her journalistic critiques. The play's premise, in fact, sets Ivins composing a story about her famous father, as a means of putting closure on her personal feelings and to forgive him, but before she can finish and find catharsis, he abruptly succumbs. More pain and frustration and then cancer, but she never willingly gave in, cajoling her public to carry on her intent, to stand up for what they believe in to make our country thrive.

What better actress to portray Ivins than the impassioned Turner. With her husky vocal tones deeper and friskier than ever, she sweeps gleefully through the evening relishing every second. At play's end, she reaches out in Ivins' fervent manner for others to wave the baton, which is unnecessary. Everyone, or most, are hanging on to every word, arduously in her camp. Producers take note: not to put down Matthew Van Oss as the office assistant, who makes three or four entrances mainly to move furniture, but adding another character to the play, especially one with no dialogue, seems futile in these trying economic times. John Arnone's basic set design is greatly enhanced by the background screen upon which a mulitude of slides and photos of Ivins' life are shown. Nice touch that the real Ivins is there and not Ms. Turner, as the two bear quite a physical resemblance.

A theatrical treat, particularly for those who love listening to and doling out political jibes ...  and for Kathleen Turner fans, who know a great actress when they see one!

Regional Awards

From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)