Mixed Blood brings the blood as tragicomedy ‘Is God Is’ makes its Minneapolis debut

September 25, 2018

If youre a Mixed Blood patron who thought the theater sometimes didnt deliver on the promise of blood in its name, then Is God Is is the play for you.

There will be blood in Aleshea Harris ferocious and violent tragicomedy about two sisters on a mission from God, which is how they refer to their mother (Joy Dolo) because she created them. Early in the play, Ma summons them to the hospital bed where shes been languishing for years, the victim of a fire that her husband started, also scarring daughters Racine (Dame-Jasmine Hughes) and Anaia (Chaz Hodges) before he disappeared.

Her instructions: Make him dead. Real dead. And bring me back some treasures from it.

Practically all of the humor in Is God Is and theres lots of it comes from the matter-of-fact way Racine and Anaia accept horrifying things. The sisters are very different Cine is impulsive and full of rage, Naia is more innocent but they have a Leopold-and-Loeb vibe, so they accomplish things together they might not be willing to do by themselves. Which is why they immediately tear off on a picaresque journey, meeting new people or, rather, new victims along the way. Theirs is not the real world, not exactly. Its more like a lurid, B-movie version of it, as suggested by Christopher Heilmans deceptively simple set, where some action is played behind a cutout in the back wall that makes it look as if were watching a movie.

Under Nataki Garretts direction, the whole cast is terrific but Is God Is belongs to its female actors. Dolos hoarse performance slyly nods to the grizzled character actors who gave Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood their marching orders in the spaghetti westerns that Is God Is frequently recalls (Eric Maysons music is spot on). Hodges gets the biggest laugh of the evening simply by saying Ummmm? And Hughes has felt like a gift to Twin Cities theater since her first appearance three years ago in Pussy Valley at Mixed Blood.

It is great to have Hughes back after a sojourn to New York, where she won an Obie Award last spring for Is God Is. She often plays characters who have been through the wringer: sex workers, slaves, drug dealers. But there is a buoyancy and a raw intelligence in her acting that marks her characters as survivors. We dont know exactly what Racine has been through as she and her sister bounced from foster home to foster home, but she takes to revenge so gleefully that its evident that the fire that scarred her was the only the beginning of her troubles.

That gets to the heart of Harris play, which asks, What if violence is contagious? What if the people who commit violent acts are led to them because the world has taught them to be violent and it is the only thing they know?

chris.hewitt@startribune.com 612-673-4367 Twitter: @HewittStrib

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