Trust your friends

Kathleen Turner stars as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot at Berkeley Rep.  Photo by Berkeley Rep.

Kathleen Turner stars as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot at Berkeley Rep. Photo by Berkeley Rep.

Dan Rubinfeld lives in New York 4 months a year, and goes to the theater often. His wife, Gail, is chair of the board of Zellerbach Hall.  He told us that this play was mediocre and Kathleen Turner is past her prime, but we had the tickets already so we went to see Red Hot Patriot: the Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins at Berkeley Rep.

Dan was right, at least about the play.  I’m still a big Kathleen Turner fan.

The play is about the larger than life Texas writer, Molly Ivins. A good old Texas girl with an Ivy league education who spent her life fighting the liberal fight in conservative Texas.  She started with the tiny and underfunded Texas Observer and ended up a nationally syndicated columnist and best selling author.

Ivins was relentless in her liberal pursuit, and hilarious in the process.  She was the one who dubbed George W. Bush “shrub”, which alone should grant her immortality.  She died at the age of 62 from breast cancer.

I clearly enjoyed her column, but I found the play just a non-linear conglomeration of moments, not well held together by an extraordinarily thin plot device of writing an obituary for her own father–who hasn’t even expired at the start of the play.

Miss Turner stalks and prowls the stage, her voice a cry in the wilderness of Texas politics. She is convincing in the part because she is of the same political stripe as Ivins, with whom she was acquainted.  Her red wig is not convincing, and is about 3 times the hair Molly Ivins really had. Like most men my age, I fell in terminal lust with Kathleen Turner when she starred in Body Heat 33 years ago, and haven’t recovered. We have seen her onstage as a vicious Martha in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf and a man-eating Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate where she bravely got naked onstage every night at the age of 46. Age and rheumatoid arthritis have not been kind to her figure, but she’s still a knockout and does not appear to have fought time with the aid of the surgeon’s scalpel.

Berkeley is the perfect city for this play, which probably explains why its run has been extended until January 11. The words of Molly Ivins are catnip to an audience of the local leftists. It was too far left for me to enjoy, and Gail was pretty actively incensed at the heavy political message.

On the other hand, Gail loves a one act, no-intermission performance, and 80 minutes after showtime we were on our way home. If you can’t be great, at least be short.

The bottom line to all this: If you are very liberal, you’ll like the play, probably.  And always trust your friends.

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