The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins

He had a level of bile that could be triggered by a Shirley Temple. — Molly Ivins commenting on her father.
Red Hot Patriot
Kathleen Turner
(Photo: Mark Garvin)
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins is the hot ticket in Philadelphia, and much has been written about its World Premiere with the Philadelphia Theatre Company. As pretty much everyone knows by now, it was a labor of love by two journalists, Margaret Engel and Allison Engel commemorating Molly Ivins, the late political columnist and author.

I came into this mid-run, having heard and read quite a lot about the show. Still, it was surprising in some respects. I thought surely the lone-star in the show, Kathleen Turner would be showing just a little monologue-fatigue. But no. She and her character, Molly Ivins, are strutting about in red boots, fresh and in good form.

I'd heard that the show is entertaining, but that toward the end it gets mawkish. Heck, the whole thing is sentimental. Far from a descent into sentimentality, I found the latter parts interestingly non-literal and more theatrical until the all-out preaching hits, although frankly the appeal for action is quite moving.

Ivins had a mouth, a keyboard, and the brains to back them up. The authors have stated to the press that they didn't want jokes to be the big thing people take away with them. Yet the subtitle is The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. And the kick-ass wit is what drives the thing. This is clever, clever stuff— a quip & zinger-rich environment, a punch line a minute. Take that away and there's not a whole lot left to anchor the piece. Sure, there is substance, but the jokes are the vehicle and medium.

An AP teletype machine is an important story organizing element that operates as a time machine and takes you back. Turner as Ivins reads her early Elvis obit and other reports hot off the wire as the performance moves through time. Basically this is an intermittently narrated slide show, something along the lines of a dog and pony show that becomes more moving as it progresses. Topical but without much insider political stuff, it's scattershot and folksy.

Under the direction of David Esbjornson, the barbed wit has soft edges and music comes up under the personal parts. Even when terminally ill, Ivins loved to celebrate "the sheer joy of a fight." Is this a manifestation of the Alamo Syndrome? (We liberals can't win in Texas, but by God we're going to put up a hell of a fight.)

At the moment there are no definite plans to mount a production elsewhere. Ms. Turner has commitments. And maybe there's a realization that this type of memorial performance art has an expiration date. Molly Ivins must have been one hell of a person, and her political journalism and books — especially during W's administration-— were influential. But that administration is over.

Kathleen Turner is a celebrity. But celebrity legs can carry a monologue only so far. I just wish they could carry it to Texas, where it could have a run in Dallas and buoy up the Democrats — all eleven of them. And even entertain thinking Republicans.

It's a didactic homage piece, more an event or star attraction than enduring theater —-a double chance to appreciate the memory of one strong, widely admired woman and to see another in performance. The passionate and compassionate Molly Ivins is well served in this tribute and Kathleen Turner has the chops to deliver it.

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel
Directed by David Esbjornson

Cast: Kathleen Turner with occasional visits by a silent, unnamed assistant.
Set Design: John Arnone
Costume Design: Elizabeth Hope Clancy
Lighting Design: Russell H. Champa
Sound Design and original music: Bob Milburn & Michael Bodeen
Projection Design: Maya Ciarrocchi
Mar 19- Apr 25 Opening 03/24/10
75 minutes
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 04/14 performance. At the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Avenue of the Arts
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
  • I disagree with the review of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
  • The review made me eager to see Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook , Curtainup at Twitter and at our Blog Annex
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill Broadway Yearbook


©Copyright 2010, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from