The Column Online



By Margaret Engel and Allison Engel

WaterTower Theatre

Director – Dana Schultes
Lighting Design – Jason Domm
Set Design – Jim Covault
Sound and Video Design – Eliot Haynes
Costume Design – Jim Covault and Peggy Kruger-O'Brien

Molly – Georgia Clinton
Helper – Wes Cantrell

Reviewed Performance: 8/19/2013

Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Molly Ivins was the liberal voice of Texas for four decades. A fiery red-head with an incendiary wit, she earned the adoration of many and the loathing of many others. For the next month, WaterTower Theatre presents the Stage West production of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins in the Studio Theatre at the Addison Theatre Centre. It's a short, mostly one-woman show, expertly performed by Georgia Clinton that, unfortunately, falls short of its goal.

The tiny black-box studio theatre is the perfect intimate space for this play. Clinton, as Ivins, can hold court and fill the stage with her personality alone. Jim Covault uses pillars to frame the acting area, create entrances, and manifest the illusion of a proscenium. A simple writer’s desk, an upstage cabinet with mementos and knick-knacks, and a couple chairs finish setting the scene of Ivins' personal writing space. This simplicity, along with the off-white primary color scheme, makes the vibrant redhead in the space standout wonderfully. The audience can't help but watch her every move.

Holding to the amazingly simple design concept of the show, Jason Domm lights the space with less than twenty instruments. The lights subtly move with Clinton around the stage, including the use of a special as she moves half way up the single aisle in the audience. They also dim appropriately for a few seconds to make viewing the projected images easier. Then the lights fade back to Clinton, drawing the audience’s attention with them. The emotional turn near the end of the show is also supported by a color change in the lighting. Overall, a great light show is presented in Red Hot Patriot.

Eliot Haynes attempts to use only music with Texas origins in this show, using a lot of ZZ Top, some Willie Nelson and others. However, when the opportunity presented itself, as Ivins spoke of her relationship with the Vietnam War, he falls on the old standby, “For What It's Worth” by the Canadian band Buffalo Springfield. Three-second clips of the songs are effectively used to separate topics in Ivins' rambling monologue, which is also aided by the appearance of subject photos projected on to the large blank canvas upstage. The photos never intrude or distract, only support the stories being told.

Costumes for Red Hot Patriot are expertly crafted by Jim Covault and Peggy Kruger-O'Brien. When the lights come up at the top of the show, we see Molly Ivins, laid back in her desk chair, observing her glasses with her legs perched upon her desk. A denim top over a tank top, jeans and a fine pair of well-worn cowboy boots complete the picture of an iconic Texas woman. Her helper is just as drab, in unobtrusive, beige clothing, as the rest of the scenery. This dichotomy beautifully makes clear where the focus should always remain in the show.

Wes Cantrell has the hapless task of appearing as Molly Ivins’ helper throughout the show. With no lines and minimal stage time, no sense of any personality is given in his performance. He is an automaton doing his job with no real emotion except for an embarrassed huff and quick exit when Ivins jokingly flirts with him. He is nearly upstaged by an AP wire machine in the corner.

Although I do not doubt Georgia Clinton's ability to portray the joie de vivre Molly Ivins possessed in her life, it does not show in this performance. She's too subdued and wistful, even for a retrospective show. Ivins was a straight-shootin' spit-fire that raised the ire of the groups to which she found herself ideologically opposed. Clinton's portrayal is that of a lovable, witty woman whose doctrine lacks teeth. Up until her death, people were looking toward Ivins to lead the social revolution this country needs. No one will mistake Clinton's performance for an insurgent.

The problem with Red Hot Patriot at WaterTower Theatre is that it is not red hot. It has laughs and is quite enjoyable but the show itself is a rambling hour long, pointless monologue that ends in a forced liberal call to action. It is written in the same spirit of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. However, that show was better written. Molly Ivins has many great one-liners to her credit. The best punchlines in Red Hot Patriot are quotes from other people, especially one from Anne Richards that has the audience nearly rolling in the aisle. If Dana Schultes would not limit Georgia Clinton's performance, or if Ms. Clinton would go farther into the brassiness of the character, the performance would be much better.

WaterTower Theatre
Addison Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001

Runs through September 29th – no performances September 19th through 22nd.

Wednesday - Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Additional performances on Tuesday, Sept. 17th at 7:30 pm and Wednesday, September 18th at 2:00 pm.

Tickets are $29.00 - $40.00, depending on day of performance.
Senior tickets are discounted $3.