|Virginia Kincaid. Photo by Frank Hunt.|
By Tina Arth
Several months ago, I read the script for Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-ass Wit of Molly Ivins, a wonderful little one-person show based on the life of a remarkable woman who died much too soon. At the time, I had never actually heard of the amazing columnist, a long, tall Texan who used her incisive wit and encyclopedic knowledge of the American political scene to either celebrate or skewer (depending on the demands of the day) the guv’mint titans of her home state and her beloved nation. By the time I got to the end of the script I was a diehard fan, so I was thrilled when I heard that Hillsboro’s STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy would be presenting a three-show special engagement of Patriot as a fundraiser, almost exactly one year since the November, 2016 day that so radically altered the socio-political climate of the United States. It is this coincidence that augments the show’s funny, pithy, and occasionally heart-wrenching monologue with an eerie prescience. It is safe to assume that the formidable Ms. Ivins would not have been a fan of our 45th president.
Playwrights/journalists/twin-sisters Margaret and Allison Engel build the show around Ivins’ attempt to write a column describing her love/hate relationship with her father, a fiercely conservative Texan who was the epitome of everything the columnist grew to despise. Almost every word is drawn from Ivins’ work – direct quotes from 40+ years of newspaper columns, magazine articles, and books, bound together with a few fictionalized musings and her one-sided conversation with a silent copy boy who sporadically appears bearing urgent news releases. The show is necessarily superficial – any attempt to condense the body of Ivins’ work and the texture of her life into an evening’s entertainment would have been doomed. Director Doreen Lundberg, the authors, and actors face the challenge of delivering enough authentic humor, pain, and folksy wisdom to inspire the audience to further exploration – and between the Internets, Amazon.com, and your local public library there’s no shortage of material.
Native Texan Virginia Kincaid doesn’t just play Molly, she makes it the role of a lifetime. From her well-used cowboy boots to her flaming red wig, the lanky Kincaid embodies her character’s physicality while her soft drawl, sardonic delivery, occasional bursts of warmth and precise timing capture the substance of a complex and unforgettable woman. Kincaid’s final monologue, an impassioned (and timely) plea to her listeners, is so powerful and believable that it should leave both actor and audience in tears. Damian Woodruff, the copy boy, provides occasional moments of silent comedy, but his shining moment comes from the subtle grief as he somberly clears Ivins’ desk at the end of the show.
Lundberg realizes the show’s vision with a single set – really just a desk, chair, and typewriter. The world outside this tiny newsroom is created with some well-placed lighting and sound effects (deftly provided by Brian Ollom and Alex Rose). Ironically, although Red Hot Patriot’s all-too-brief engagement is a fundraiser for youth theater, the show is not really appropriate for young children (older teens should be able to handle mature themes and language). With a run time just over an hour, one of Patriot’s three performances should be easy to work into your weekend plans. Go for the STAGES benefit, stay for the moving and occasionally hilarious performance, and then commit to learning more about the wit and wisdom of one of our nation’s smartest, most dedicated and genuine patriots.
Red Hot Patriot, The Kick-ass Wit of Molly Ivins play for three performances only at the Tuality Masonic Lodge, 176 NE 2nd Avenue, Hillsboro with shows Saturday, November 4th 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 5th at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM.