I suppose (since I will not recuse myself) I must begin by declaring my bias. I am a Queer, Liberal, Progressive Democrat from the state of Texas. Born and raised. To anyone who knows or reads my reviews regularly, this revelation probably verges on redundancy, but now, should you choose to attend the glorious, jaw-dropping, spectacularly funny Red Hot Patriot (The kick-ass wit of Molly Ivins) and decide you were gypped, you cannot claim that you weren’t warned. I’d like to think that incisive political punditry is worthy of recognition, regardless of one’s personal views (I adore Bill Maher) but who knows? Perhaps if a columnist of the late Molly Ivins’ skill existed right of center, I’d be unable to take a laugh at my own expense. The world may never know.
I can only say that the journey for a Texan who does not ascribe to a Conservative, Republican ideology is probably a profoundly lonely one. Obviously we all have the common sense to congregate with those of like minds, but still, it can go far beyond dejecting to realize how many strangers throughout the globe assume that here in the Lonely Star State, the vocal (if not articulate) majority speaks for us all. I guess bullies will always get the lunch money.
For those of us who have trod this depressing path, we can take solace and succor in the acerbic, gleeful, penetrating and unapologetic prose of Molly Ivins, a columnist who wrote for newspapers all over the country, including The New York Times, The Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Times Herald, The Fort Worth Star Telegram and The Texas Observer. She died of cancer in 2007, having spent her journalist’s career aiming at the foibles, follies, fallacies and tom-foolery of the government in Texas, its political leaders and presidential candidates, and the evils of intolerance, corruption, incompetence and cronyism in general. She did so with breathtaking intelligence, precision, dry satire and genuine passion. She took social and political commentary to the level of a science.
Red Hot Patriot (essentially) a one-woman show, runs less than 90 minutes, and finds Ivins (Georgia Clinton) struggling to do justice in print to a father whom she obviously cherished, and with whom she rarely agreed. She describes the verbal warfare that raged over the supper table, a situation that was not only expected but welcomed. Informed debate was actually encouraged. Politically she and her dad stood diametrically opposed, but grudges and partisanship never trumped dialectic. Occasionally interrupted by a cub referred to as “Helper” (Wes Cantrell) Ivins goes on to detail her education at Smith College, her internship and subsequent rise in the ranks of newspaper authors, as she hopped from periodical to periodical. We learn about the historic events that shaped her frame of reference, her romantic partners and personal heroes, moments of sublime pleasure and intense disappointment. She was eventually acknowledged as an equal by the “boys club” of serious reporters and newspaper scribes, where she kept up with the culture of liquor, tobacco, watering hole conviviality and cocktail flu misery. Ivins was a ring-tailed tooter, outspoken and irresistible, who never lost her pride in being a Native-Born Texas Liberal.
We must grant conspicuous laurels to twin sisters Margaret and Allison Engel, journalists themselves, who, after reviewing the voluminous content of Ivins’ oeuvre, were able to concoct a profoundly moving, comprehensive, provocatively witty and richly detailed treatment of Molly Ivins astonishing life, true to her political views, without being didactic. Neither of these two had ever written for the stage before, and with the help of Kathleen Turner, forged a tribute that will help Molly’s voice to live on. (Please excuse the familiarity.) Georgia Clinton is gripping and charismatic in this performance with its nuances, key changes, tonal meticulousness and soul-shaking earnestness, blended with a warmth and magnanimity that flows like chilly, bracing river, though an arid sandbowl.
WaterTower Theatre presents : Red Hot Patriot, playing August 18th-September 29th, 2013 at the Studio of the Addison Theatre Center, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001. 972-450-6232 www.watertowerthatre.org