Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins

Also see Susan's review of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Kathleen Turner
Molly Ivins (1944-2007) was the kind of opinionated journalist—as opposed to pundit—that the nation doesn't see often enough. She was an outspoken liberal who grew up in a wealthy, conservative household, a born-and-bred Texan who headed east to graduate from Smith College and a woman whose writing could outrage, amuse, and educate all at once.

Arena Stage in Washington welcomes Molly back in the person of another gutsy woman, Kathleen Turner, in the crackling one-woman show Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Playwrights Margaret Engel and Allison Engel (sisters and journalists) crafted the 75-minute show out of Molly's words and life, and it's a perfect fit in the intimate Kogod Cradle.

People who know Molly from her wisecracks and acerbic persona may be surprised to learn that she was a debutante, the daughter of an oil company executive she called "The General." As staged by David Esbjornson, Turner stalks the stage, drapes herself on her cluttered desk (designed by John Arnone) and collects dispatches from an antiquated teletype machine (they were common in newsrooms in the pre-word processor era) while recounting her life in print.

Molly spent some time in the Denver bureau of The New York Times, but she found that the politically liberal Texas Observer was a better fit for her temperament. Her later syndicated columns appeared in almost 400 newspapers.

As Turner recounts with relish, Molly loved the absurdities of Texas politics and politicians (she said of one, "If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day") and coined the nickname "Shrub" for George W. Bush, whom she knew in high school.

Molly died of breast cancer, but she went down fighting—and this energizing show will help keep her words and spirit alive. As she says in summation: "It is the ordinary folks who are going to save us. My legacy will be helping people be a pain in the ass."

Arena Stage
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
August 23rd - October 28th
By Margaret Engel and Allison Engel
Molly Ivins: Kathleen Turner
Helper: Nicholas Yenson
Directed by David Esbjornson
Kogod Cradle, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Sixth and Maine avenues SW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or

Photo: Mark Garvin