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Review: 'Red Hot Patriot' doesn't capture the real Molly Ivins

Mark S. Howard

Molly Ivins was an old-school, ultra-liberal journalist with a fondness for attacking anyone even slightly right of moderate with her tart-tongued, pithy wit.

A one-person show about the brazen Texan who lived among the good old boys she so freely criticized should be a hoot, no matter which side of the political fence you’re on. But “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” despite a decent production by the Lyric Stage Company, never quite captures the chutzpah that made Ivins both appealing and appalling enough to warrant her own show in the first place.

The 75-minute piece takes place in a newsroom where Ivins plugs away at a story about her father, the authoritarian Republican thorn in her side. When the AP teletype machine rings (signifying an important story), highlights of Ivins’ own life and career spit out instead, beginning her trip down memory lane.

Odds are, if the lady who lived for the opportunity to take swipes at any deserving offender lived to see this schmaltzy plot-driver, she would’ve had a few words to say about it. Suffice to say, it feels contrived and lacks creativity.

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Though playwrights (and twin sisters) Margaret and Allison Engel use some of her best lines, (“If his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day”), and more than once mention her dubbing George W. Bush “Shrub,” they never capture the “kick-ass wit” the title promises. A more substantive look at the woman beneath the heavy-drinking rabble-rouser would’ve added some much-needed depth and weight to her story.

Karen MacDonald proves up to the task with her stellar embodiment of Ivins. But it takes more than a few uproarious zingers to turn that biting rattlesnake into someone you really care about.

If you go

“Red Hot Patriot”

Through Jan. 31

Lyric Stage

140 Clarendon St.

$25 - $66

617-585-5678

www.lyricstage.com

 
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