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  • Theater
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

texts&beheadings/ElizabethR: Review by Helen Shaw

The title of Karin Coonrod's texts&beheadings/ElizabethR promises much. Those lowercase letters! That naughty slash! It hints at something avant garde or perhaps at something that goes deep into 16th-century graphology. Instead, we get a series of quotes from and about Elizabeth I, shuffled into sections by theme and occasionally contextualized in laboriously modern language. This is unproductive: Good Queen Bess is squeezed small by such treatment. The collaboratively built piece has been carefully researched and engages one's interest for its 60-minute duration, but it has been restricted (corseted, even) by mild ambition.

The iconic queen is actually four performers, all in Oana Botez's mock-Elizabethan couture: Monique Barbee (sly), Ayeje Feamster (devout), Juliana Francis-Kelly (terrifying) and Cristina Spina (regal). Together they make up Elizabeth's simultaneous portrait, occasionally singing madrigal arrangements and commenting on one another's moments as “Lizzie.” Deviser-director Coonrod wants to strike a playful note, so the four movements are interrupted by games, though these are biographical material with illustrative staging. (They present Elizabeth's suitors as a parade, for instance.)

Those with an appetite for history will thrill to Elizabeth's wily speeches and letters, and her commanding language does keep the evening bright. The actresses are committed to the hilt, and the piece itself clearly takes Gloriana seriously. But there's magic that hasn't been performed here, the kind that turns a passionate, creative investment into something that radiates outward. Without it, we're left thinking but unravished, chilly in our awe of the Virgin Queen.—Helen Shaw

BAM Fisher (Off Broadway). Conceived and directed by Karin Coonrod. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.


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