October 24, 2015
One after another, the four women recite scraps of Queen Elizabeth’s history. At a young age, Elizabeth recognized the importance of staying alive. Her hand written notes express a girlchild much older
than her years, acutely observant and intellectually precocious. From the time she was crowned to her death, Queen Elizabeth outwitted her colleagues, detractors and enemies. The daughter of Ann Boleyn, Elizabeth understands the art of persuasion. Four high back chairs based on Scottish designer Charles Rennie Macintosh resembled the royal thrones and Elizabeth’s steely spine.
In Karin Coonrod’s “texts&beheadings/ElizabethR,” four actresses, Monique Barbee, Ayeje Feamster, Julian Francis-Kelly and Christina Spina assume different personas delineating how many times before the age of 21 Elizabeth had to plead for her life and acceptance at court. Insistent she takes her vows seriously, she swipes away attempts at marrying her off in weddings of political convenience in order to remain exclusive to England.
Traveling through four movements – Strategy, Survival, Prayers and Sovereignty—the actresses break into crisp Madrigals by Gina Lishman interrupted by a series of rowdy games. Besides singing, Elizabeth danced! Peppy Baroque dances bounce the queen(s) around the stage, instilling a sense of delights and heightened sensuality.
Karin Coonrod is a muscular director swathed in instinct. Her productions always reveal more than they show. As proven in previous productions, Coonrod has a particular kinship with Shakespeare and historical plays.
She collaborates on this project with dramaturge and scenic designer John Conklin, as well as the wholly centered actress dressed in sumptuous black dresses by Oona Botez.
Although it appears for only two days at BAM’s Fishman Space, all can only hope for an exteneded run elsewhere in the city.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis