Los Angeles Theater Review: RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS (Geffen Playhouse)

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by Harvey Perr on January 21, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

WILL THE REAL MOLLY IVINS PLEASE STAND UP?

Molly Ivins was a ballsy Texas-based reporter who became a legend in her own time by calling a spade a spade (or, more succinctly, calling George W. Bush a moron – even before he was President – and who added glorious insult to magnificent injury by saying that electing another Texan to the presidency would be sheer craziness on the part of Americans – years before Gov. Rick Perry of Texas stepped up to a podium in a Republican presidential debate). Molly Ivins, briefly, could never be accused of timidity.

Nor could the word apply to Kathleen Turner, whose formidable presence makes her almost the perfect actress to emotionally recreate on stage the physical and emotional terrain of the revered Ivins, particularly when she brings her Texas drawl, dripping with honey and laced with sour mash, to the Ivins rapier-like inventory of poisonously accurate observations on politics and life. No, Ms. Turner cannot be accused of timidity, either.

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel – directed by David Esbjornson - with Kathleen Turner – Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey PerrAnd yet Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins is, as an evening of theater, embarrassingly timid. The “play” that Margaret Engel and Allison Engel have stitched together from the life and writings of Ivins not only lacks cohesion, it outright runs away from explosive confrontation, which, of course, means that it runs away from its subject. The device which frames the work – an editorial Ms. Ivins is writing about her father – is a weak one; once we realize that this is, in fact, what is supposed to give the “play” its structure, we have almost forgotten that it was even mentioned. They also introduce a wordless character into the proceedings who pops in every so often, and from whom Ivins constantly demands a cup of coffee…a request he never seems to heed (but anyone who thinks that she will never get that cup of coffee before the “play” comes to its end has never been to the theater before, or seen a movie, or watched television – and cliché-ridden though it may be, even worse is that there’s no payoff).

And when Turner opens a can of beer, which leads to the projection of a fireworks display, the moment dissolves into silliness; she might as well have poured herself a cup of tea to the accompaniment of sparklers. For this, blame must go to the usually reliable David Esbjornson, whose direction lacks energy and drive.

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel – directed by David Esbjornson - with Kathleen Turner – Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey Perr

If Molly Ivins’ life had been given more weight, and if her pithy political statements had not been turned into slightly amusing sound bytes, and if the “play” didn’t meander all over the place, then, given the perilous political times in which we are living, this is an evening that could have, with rising momentum, crescendoed into a call to action, not a tepid invitation to a standing ovation for a star turn. Even the game Kathleen Turner surely knows that the real heroine of Red Hot Patriot should have been Molly Ivins.

photos by Mark Garvin
(from Philadelphia Theatre Company’s World Premiere production)

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
Geffen Playhouse
ends on February 19, 2012
for tickets, visit Geffen

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pat Satcher January 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

Sounds like, feels like, the Republican debates…talk but not too hard, and slap but don’t hit me so hard, and play nice because someone might be watching…

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