‘Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins’ at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater

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With guns a-blazin’ you’ll know not to mess with Texas as Arena Stage presents the political powder keg Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Kicking off their 2012-2013 season with this edgy charged performance, directed by David Esbjornson, the show is a one-woman rally starring Kathleen Turner as the loud and proud patriotic democrat Molly Ivins. Best known for her political wit and satire – the production is an exploration of her life’s high points and low moments, all packed into one motivational, uproarious, and emotionally touching evening.

Kathleen Turner in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of ‘Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.’ Photo by Mark Garvin.

Esbjornson gives the audience a look at the ‘rough and ready’ side of Ivins as well as the more sentimental and deeply moving side in this biographical comedy. He manages to skillfully direct Turner into channeling the vivacious spirit of the late Molly Ivins, giving the audience a chance to experience the larger than life politically charged personality first hand. Together this team creates an unforgettable instance of comedy and drive all wrapped up in one – a red hot riot of a good time on stage if ever there was one.

From the moment Kathleen Turner takes the stage she is greeted with thunderous applause from the audience, which is respectably earned with the performance that follows. She sets fire to the humors of politics, covering a vast range of topics from the rights of women, to civil rights, political scandal and all that falls in-between. Turner’s signature voice allows that true gritty nature of the Texas girl to shine through as she rips into the material generating cacophonous laughter among those watching.

Turner has an off-kilter charm and charisma that makes you love her character all the more; each turn of phrase slowly and purposefully spoken so that all the clever jokes and laugh lines carefully crafted into the show by playwrights Margaret and Allison Engel land with their full intention. She exudes a confidence about herself when speaking, even in the subtle way she moves about the office space, that lets you know she is proud of who she is and what she stands for – making the messages she delivers that much more poignant.

The story telling ability of Turner is a crucial focus in this performance and she delivers satisfaction beyond a shadow of a doubt. Her anecdotes become the ruminations of a wizened spiced woman who tends to get under people’s skin just for the hell of it. She captivates the audience with her simple stories, some more potent than others, but even with just a fond memory of her dog, Shit, or her father The General, she has the audience hanging on her every word, desperate to know what she’ll say next. Her voice drips with nostalgia, filtered through the many lenses of humorous wit, complex reminiscence, and humbling reflection.

Turner masters the Texan accent in her signature voice with an iron fist. All the words that you’d expect to sound appropriately southern come out with just the right touch of twang, particular when she’s racing through a story to get to the good bit, her excitement building in her eyes and her voice as she goes. Her sense of comic timing is impeccable and untouchable; it could not be set to a higher standard as she delivers zinger after zinger into some of the most well-recognized Republican political figures of Texas.

Delving deep into the character, Turner holds her own in regards to that sense of patriotic pride, slinging backward stingers loaded with laughter like a fry-cook slinging hash off rural route nine. She is the epitome of spice and revolution all wound up in one large mouthpiece for trouble. She accesses the character’s political empowerment in such a way that it really encourages the audience to think about their own patriotic viewpoints.

Turner provides a versatile character in her portrayal of Ivins – the hard fierce funny lady who also has that deep emotional side. There are moments where the audience is enveloped in laughter, practically rolling in the aisles and one quick decisive phrase drops them to dead silence with the severity and seriousness in her tone. Her ability to switch between these moments of utter comedy and strong heart-wrenching emotions is nothing short of astonishing.Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins starring Kathleen Turner is clearly the red hot hit of the season and should not be missed!

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins plays through October 28, 2012 in Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater’s Kogod Cradle – 1101 Sixth Street, SW, in Washington, DC. To purchase tickets, call the box office at (202) 488-3300, or buy them online.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.