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Off-Off-Broadway Review

NY Review: 'Ye Elizabeths'

NY Review: 'Ye Elizabeths'
Like a tangy hors d'oeuvre that whets your appetite for the rest of the meal, "Ye Elizabeths" is a teasingly short musical that leaves you salivating for more. Written and performed by Alicia Barnatchez and Erin Leigh Schmoyer, the 50-minute show bursts with imagination and fresh humor and speeds along at such a delightful pace that come the final curtain you would swear only five minutes had passed.

Barnatchez and Schmoyer, both excellent actors, portray adorably strange women, each of whom is named Elizabeth. They live partly in the present and partly within the 17th-century lives of the characters that they inhabit in their jobs as re-interpreters at the Living History Museum in Salem, Mass. Sporting wonderfully ridiculous cockney accents, the women talk gleefully to the tourists about chicken slaughtering, smithery, massacres, and other aspects of everyday life in the 1600s. Their tickling descriptions offer biting commentary on the concept of "history as entertainment."

Spiced with musical selections that spoof Broadway tunes and television theme songs (arranged by Evan Gregory, who accompanies on piano, and Sarah Gregory), the script skillfully intermingles the Pilgrims and 21st-century pop culture. When an eviction letter arrives from a local Native American chief, who speaks English with an Indian (as in Asia) accent, the museum is forced to close and vacate its land, which under the new Native American Repatriation Act now belongs to the Indians. Unemployed, the Elizabeths audition to be on "Pilgrim Plantation," a reality-TV show for which they are utterly suited.

The piquant ironies contained within the story's references to Americans' relationships with their history are underlined by Leah Bonvissuto's lively direction and funny, silent moviestyle videography by Jeremy Mather. Despite the brevity of our time with the Elizabeths, we really get to know and enjoy the company of the zany "Laverne & Shirley"like duo. Not only does this theatrical morsel leave us wanting to know how the pair will fare on their TV show; it begs for further exploration of the provocative themes it sets forth. What is history? Is it a concrete set of happenings or a malleable social construct particular to the values and interests of each passing era? Do we have a need for historical authenticity? And what makes an idea, a character, or a feeling timeless?

Presented by Easter Punny Productions as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St., NYC. June 2–19. Remaining performances: Thu., June 7, 7 p.m.; Fri., June 15, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 16, 3 p.m.; Tue., June 19, 8 p.m. (212) 353-3101, (866) 811-4111,, or

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