“Between Two Knees”

Yale Repertory Theatre

Yale Repertory Theatre is currently presenting “Between Two Knees,” an occasionally amusing but, ultimately, wearying new play.  “Between Two Knees” is written by The 1491s, a comedy group, and the noble intention of the show is to present a work that will unearth the real truth of Native Americans and their heritage.  In the program, it is stated that sometimes a comedy with serious undertones can galvanize one more to take a stand on a particular cause, than, say, a sad drama could.  There may be some truth to this, but this current play doesn’t really demonstrate that.  The hardworking cast is certainly game and the show looks wonderful, but, after about twenty minutes of jokey narrative, the laughs start to give out and one is left with the plot, which, unfortunately, is not terribly engaging.  Yale Repertory Theatre certainly does everything it can to give “Between Two Knees” a first class presentation, but this is really a show of diminishing returns.

This is most unfortunate because, at the beginning of the show, this play promises to be a subversive delight.  As the character of Larry, Justin Gauthier really stands out and he is the primary focus at the start, finding the precise balance between comedy and drama.  And “Between Two Knees” can be funny, but, as the show continues on, one’s interest starts to wane.  This play might have worked as a short comedy skit, but the production drags on to over two and half hours and not even the valiant efforts of everyone involved can truly help it.  “Between Two Knees” attempts to right history for Native Americans once and for all, but the sheer length of the show ultimately undermines this effort.

One is best to concentrate on the company of actors, all of whom do everything they can to enliven the proceedings.  As mentioned, Justin Gauthier certainly makes a strong impression, but everyone in the show can handle both comic and serious moments equally well.  Rather late in the second act, Wotko Long, as Isiah, and Sheila Tousey, as his wife Irma, make a welcome couple.  Similarly, Derek Garza is good as a younger version of Isiah and Shyla Lefner is his equal as the younger Irma.  Still, after sitting through this overlong show, even their contributions start to peter out.  The other members of the cast of “Between Two Knees” include Edward Astor Chin, Rachel Crowl, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, all of whom do their best to make the show as buoyant as possible.

Even if “Between Two Knees” is unable to accomplish its admirable goals, the production at Yale Repertory Theatre, under the directorship of Eric Ting, looks topnotch.  The wonderful scenic design is by Regina Garcia and there are many facets of the set that are intriguing and humorous.  Costume designer Lux Haac also scores with the imaginative costumes seen throughout the show.  The show is evocatively lit by Elizabeth Harper, whose lighting design is nuanced and effective.  Sound designer Jake Rodriguez deserves his share of applause and the original songs written by Ryan RedCorn fit the play perfectly. Also, the choreographer, Ty Defoe, has come up with some amusing dance steps, in an attempt to enhance the various scenes in the show.   

Unfortunately, though, all of these excellent contributions, and the willingness of the performers to do just about anything for a laugh, can only go so far.  Likewise, director Eric Ting does what he can to keep the show moving along, but his work ultimately fails to make the show truly entertaining.  In the program, it is mentioned that “Between Two Knees” was first seen in Oregon and there must have been enough attraction in that production to compel the play to be staged at Yale Repertory Theatre.  Presented in a much shorter format, “Between Two Knees” would probably fare better, but, as seen in the production at Yale Repertory Theatre, this show is unable to make the impression and achieve the significance that the creators are clearly trying to accomplish.

“Between Two Knees” runs through June 4, 2022 at Yale Repertory Theatre, in New Haven CT.  For tickets and more information, please visit www.yalerep.org or call the box office at 203-432-1234.

Photo: Justin Gauthier

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

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