The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington Announces a Spectacular Return to Form For Mixed Blood

production poster

I don’t even know where to begin. The last show I saw produced by Mixed Blood was Interstate: The Musical, which closed early due to the pandemic but, not before I saw it three times. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time so I have been anxious to see what they did next. The answer for the last two years has been very little in the way of theater. This isn’t their first full production they did Mariology in the fall but that was really an outside theatre company they brought in. The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington is the first homegrown production and it’s a shining example of what Minnesota’s artistic community is capable of. This is a show I expect to see making my TCTB Awards Nomination list next January, it’s that good. What’s so good? That’s what I was talking about when I said I don’t know where to start. First off, the production design and every technical department that created the visual and aural landscape of this show are endlessly creative. I felt like I was at Open Eye Theatre who are known for their impeccable production designs. Matt Lefebvre scenic design work is impressive on first view as you walk into the theater, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The surprises that lay in store feel like magic when they happen, and far be it of me to give away the magicians secrets. And it isn’t just the set design it’s also Karin Olson’s Lighting, Theo Langason’s Sound design along with the props designed by Kris Schmidt. Don’t even get me started on the costumes, makeup, and wig work of Zamora Simmons. It’s a seven person cast and I’m guessing there are around 30 costumes. That might be an exaggeration, but it also wouldn’t shock me to learn that it’s pretty close to the actual number.

...the kind of show overflowing with creativity that will open a new theatergoer to the possibilities of what theater can be.

The show opens on Martha Washington the first First Lady of America. George is dead and she’s very sick in bed. She is being cared for by the slaves whom according to George’s will are to be set free upon her death. We see them, their names are Sucky Boy, Priscilla, Doll, Davy, and Ann they pray to God for Martha. From that moment on, hold onto your hat, the program describes what follows as a fever dream which tracks, except Martha dreams about the future, the past, finds herself on a gameshow and ultimately on trial, as promised in the title. The script by James Ijames is a satirical look at the past through the lense of the present day. It demolishes the defense of that’s just how it was in those days, particularly effective is the reveal of what happened between Ann and Martha’s son. If you can still maintain that argument after that scene, then I guess the argument is, that’s just how things were back then and white people had no moral compass. It’s tackling some very real and heavy issues but it never stops entertaining the audience, it’s only after it’s whirlwind 90 minute run time that you have time to stop and process. This is a wildly entertaining play and should be enjoyed and appreciated on those levels, but it’s also important to look at what we are laughing about and why this story is being told in this way.

It’s tackling some very real and heavy issues but it never stops entertaining the audience

Pirronne Yousefzadeh directs the play steering the fever dream from scene to scene changing styles and tone on a dime. I haven’t seen this as effectively done since the last time I watched Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels. The cast is a testament to the talent we have in the Twin Cities acting community, we have some of the best actors in the country and if you don’t believe me, go see The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington at Mixed Blood and you will. Aside from Karen Wiese-Thompson who only plays Martha, which she does brilliantly, the other actors play multiple roles throughout the show. Valencia Proctor who was fantastic in last years Passage at Pillsbury House shows a gift for comedy, I loved her take on the out of touch real housewife of 1802. Tolu Ekisola take on the court bailiff got a laugh every time she swore someone in, her line reading choice is just right. Now these are just moments in a show where they each portray multiple characters, some funny, others a little more on the realistic side, but all pitch perfect in a show where the tone is constantly shifting. The same is true of Darius Dotch and Mikell Sapp who short of act as a comic team in certain scenes. Dotch’s standout is as Lawyer Man, a Defense Attorney for Martha from and in the future. Sapp, is comic gold as George Washington who deflects all blame for slave owning off on Martha, whom he calls a pimp. Monica E. Scott plays Ann, who is Martha’s main caregiver, half-sister, and of course property. She has what is probably the role with the most serious tone throughout, she gets to play along in the fun occasionally but her most memorable moments are when in the fever dream of Martha’s she is still playing Ann but deviant. The cast is rounded out by Domino D’Lorion whose first appearance as William makes an impression. He plays multiple roles but as William, that’s where he really impresses pulling off that nearly impossible task of being a grown person playing a young kid. He really has the body language and uncertainty down, when embodying the character in a version of reality but then a completely impish quality when in full fever dream mode, it feels like Bat-mite has magically appeared in Martha’s bedroom. Neither version comes anywhere close to annoying, which is saying a lot because Bat-mite is always annoying. He plays both versions of William brilliantly. 

The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washingtonruns through March 31st at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis. For more information and to purchase tickets go to . I’ve talked a lot about the importance of creating new theater audiences. The first trick is to get people into theater seats that don’t ordinarily go to the theater. Mixed Blood has a solution for that they over a program called Radical Hospitality, Tickets are available by donation, if you cannot afford theater tickets you can get them at no cost. If you can afford to spend $30 or $60 on a ticket do so, donations are what make it possible for those without resources to attend theater. The second step in creating a new theater audience is staging something that gives them a feeling that they want to experience again, Mixed Blood has that covered with this show as well. The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington is the kind of show overflowing with creativity that will open a new theatergoer to the possibilities of what theater can be.

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Headshot of Rob Dunkelberger
Rob Dunkelberger

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content