Performing Arts: Theater
October 23, 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 a production that culled the script from her poems, letters, prayers and speeches.

The four actresses, Monique Barbee, Ayeje Feamster, Julian Francis-Kelly and Christina Spina take on different personas delineating how many times before the age of 21 Elizabeth had to plead for her life and acceptance at court. Insistent she take her vows seriously, and to remain exclusive to England, Elizabeth swipes away attempts at marrying her off for political convenience.

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 delight and heightened sensuality.

Director Karin Coonrod is a muscular director swathed in instinct. Her productions always reveal more than they show, and 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 four days at BAM’s Fishman Space, all can hope for an extended run elsewhere in the city.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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