Five Lone Stars for 'Red Hot Patriot: The Kickass Wit of Molly Ivins'

Presented by Studio 24

Location  CNY Jazz Central 441 E. Washington Street, Syracuse

When Nov. 18-26

Tickets $20

Runtime 90 minutes

Word about town: The Post-Standard

GRR Review By Lauren Smart

It’s not often a show from or about Texas doesn’t embarrass me. Until June, I was a “lifer” – a term I can almost hear Molly Ivins quipping. But Karis Wiggins’ turn in “Red Hot Patriot” did me proud.

Wiggins personifies both the accent and the snark of Texas’ outspoken liberal journalist, who paid her dues at Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Times Herald, Fort Worth Star Telegram, and at one point The New York Times.

Syracuse's Studio 24 opened this one-woman show at CNY Jazz Central last week with plenty of political jokes and conservative bashing. Ivins committed her wit to sifting through the “bullshit” of American politics, and the jokes are as intelligent as they are bold – she dubs George W. Bush, “Shrub” and pokes fun at all the politicians that have elevated Texas to a national punch line.

Wiggins' portrayal of this Texas legend is dead-on and a pleasure to watch. From the minute she walks on stage with a mug of coffee (or perhaps, whisky), she captures the lived-in spirit familiar to Texans. Her all-denim wardrobe (Levi’s, one might presume), complemented by bare feet, eventually outfitted with boots (Justin's, I’ll venture) demonstrates this production’s commitment to the Texan way.

Wiggins never stoops to caricature or breaks character, she’s got Molly Ivins down. In the performance I saw, she forgot which anecdote she was supposed to tell next and quipped, “Well, y’all I don’t want to be like Rick Perry and have no idea what I’m supposed to talk about.”

As she’s telling her stories, pictures of her younger days flash across a corkboard covered in news clips. Wiggins’ face is photoshopped in place of Ivins, a trick that serves the play well in most instances. The production is straight and to the point, country songs underscore appropriate moments in the plot and an antique AP wire machine delivers articles from Ivins’ past.

The play opens with Wiggins writing a column in homage to her stringent father, and in form the play is a well-written homage to Ivins and her fatherland of Texas. Stooping only momentarily into an anti-war sermon, Wiggins keeps the no-holds-barred play funny and to the point.