Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins by Margaret and Allison Engel just opened in Philadelphia. I had the privilege of having Ivins' as one of my best friends at Smith College in the sixties and I can tell you that the authors and Kathleen Turner, who plays Molly Ivins in this one-woman show, got her just right -- neither too sweet nor preachy; but original, unpredictable and sympathetic.
The play immortalizes her dazzling humor -- always directed at the rich and powerful -- for which she was justly famous. Even back in her Smith Rally-Day Show writing days, Ivins never settled for cheap shots. As Dorothy Parker once said, "Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words."
Ivins was a true wit. It's not surprising that a play about her would be very funny, but this play also reveals a side of her that many will not be familiar with: her life-long struggle to come to terms with her relationship with her father. Referred to as "The General", opposing him and his beliefs is how Ivins felt she developed her strength. "I've always had trouble with male authority figures because my father was such a martinet," she once told the Texas Monthly.
The play moves to New York, but not until Fall at the earliest, however Philadelphia is the perfect venue for its opening. It's a city that represents what Ivins loved and hated most: first, it's the birthplace of the constitution, which she loved more than life itself, and, second, it's a city of exclusivity, with loads of clubs whose membership is based on I got here before you did -- perhaps what Molly hated most. She was a hard drinker and a hell-raiser, a good friend and a formidable thinker and writer. As Richard Aregood, the former editor of the Philadelphia Daily News said, "The combination of Houston and Smith College produces wondrous things."
More's the pity we can't bring Molly back, but seeing this play is the next best thing. Don't miss it!