Between Two Knees – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Historically our relations with Native Americans has been complicated and universally unfair. It has involved genocide, stolen land, broken treaties and frequent wars. One would think these unlikely topics for a comedy but the troupe the 1491s would convincingly like to differ. To prove their point, they are mounting a wild and wooly statement of historical facts in an original offering, in its East Coast premiere, of “Between Two Knees” at New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre until Saturday, June 4.

The 1491s embrace satire, stress the absurd, skewer the establishment and use comedy as a tool of resistance. Since 2009, they have been cutting their incisors on YouTube videos and now have produced a full length play about the importance of honoring the sovereignty of Native Nations across our lands, the lands that were originally their own.

With a storyline that floats from the Revolutionary War, to Wounded Knee, to Vietnam and everywhere in-between, the audience will be bombarded with references to everyone from Vanna White to Stephen King, so pay attention. It follows one Native American family, from the Lakota tribe, and their son and grand son, and what happens to them as they try to survive. The talented cast includes Edward Astor Chin, Rachel Crowl, Derek Garza, Justin Gauthier, Shyla Lefner, Wotko Long, Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Sheila Tousey playing multiple roles that express their heritage.

To the 1491s, this production “is a version of comedy that takes back power that has been lost or stolen. It is a way of looking right in the eyes of the people who tried to kill you and laughing at them.” The result is thought provoking and impossible to ignore. The recent disclosure of Native American schools that have been abusing children for decades and resulting in numerous deaths underlines that continuing mistreatment over the years. This is eye opening theater that should and will haunt you under the careful direction of Eric Ting.

For tickets ($10-65), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Bring your proof of vaccination and wear your mask.

Let the more than life size versions of the buffalo, wolf and eagle by set designer Regina Garcia welcome you to the discussion of our relationship with Native Americans that begs for a resolution and long overdue improvement.

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