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Red Hot Molly

Kathleen Turner channels late newspaper legend

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KEVIN BERNE
  • Kevin Berne

There are plenty of folksy, funny moments in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, a lovingly scripted scrapbook of a one-woman-show, featuring Kathleen Turner as the acclaimed newspaper columnist who died of breast cancer in 2007.

The somewhat awkward script by Margaret and Allison Engel works hard to find a through-line in what ends up being less a story of Ivins' life and more an assembly of Wikipedia-level facts livened by a greatest hits parade of Ivins' political columns and Texas-twang zingers. Even so, as in her life, Ivins' vibrant humor and fierce passion shines through, and Kathleen Turner, best known for her film work (Body Heat, Romancing the Stone), turns out to be a first-rate channel for Ivins' voice and contagious spirit.

"This is what writing looks like," she announces at the start of the show, her red-booted feet propped up on her desk beside an old manual typewriter. "It's 75 percent thinking, 15 percent typing and 10 percent caffeine." Covering her rise as the rare female reporter at a series of boys' club newspapers, with emphasis on her rocky relationship with her conservative father, Red Hot Patriot isn't perfect, but Turner and Ivins turn out to be an irresistible match.

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