2023 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Shut Up Martha’ (5 stars)

Compelling retelling of the Watergate scandal from the point of view of one of its most colorful characters.

Martha Elizabeth Beall Mitchell (September 2, 1918 – May 31, 1976) was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. Her public comments and interviews during the Watergate scandal were frank and revealing.

If you don’t remember Watergate, the scandal that sank Nixon, you’ll want to see this show featuring the point of view of one of its most colorful characters. If you DO remember Watergate, you’re already interested.

Playwright Jake Lipman focuses on the outspoken Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, who had a habit of calling reporters in the evenings and sharing White House gossip. Martha felt the Nixon White House deliberately attempted to discredit her by planting stories with story-hungry journalists. Much of the script is verifiably true, including Mitchell’s attempts to warn the public about the Watergate scandal. The facts surrounding the Watergate scandal were unimaginably ridiculous and naive by today’s standards.

Lipman plays title character Martha Mitchell, while Jaya Tripathi plays sympathetic, groundbreaking reporter Helen Thomas. Both performers are stellar. The rest of the roles are divided among actors Matt Gibson, William Douglas Turner, and Loralee Tyson. The cast is compelling, flexible, and harmonious, the harmony demonstrated while they’re singing a real-life song from Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign.

Production values are high. The sparse, suggestive set is used effectively. Sound design by Philip Rothman is perfectly in sync with the performance as well as the lighting design. These, and the speedy pace, give the show a slick, professional look.

The script highlights societally embedded chauvinism while itself actively ignoring it. A female news anchor in 1973? Not for breaking news. The real Helen Thomas spent her career battling barriers for women in media. The real Martha Mitchell died alone, penniless, and discredited only a few years after Watergate, her public warnings largely ignored.


Running Time: 50 minutes.

Shut Up Martha played through July 16 at Squirt – 1st Floor – 1050 Thomas Jefferson.

Genre: Drama
Playwright: Jake Lipman
Performers: Jake Lipman, Jaya Tripathi, Matt Gibson, William Douglas Turner, Loralee Tyson
Sound Design: Philip Rothman
Assistant Director: Olivia M. Ragan
Lighting Designer: Camille Kashaka

SEE ALSO: 2023 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Shut Up Martha’ (preview by guest author, July 7, 2023)

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.


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