Theater Review: Between Two Knees

I don’t know who is on the Tony Awards committee, but whoever you are, I need to you to see this. I need you to vote for Between Two Knees.

It may make you feel a little uncomfortable (especially, if you are white), but by the end of the show, you’ll feel a little differently about how you approach the subject of Native Americans. You know, that race of people that everyone seems to ignore when they speak. Yet, they’re also the ones putting out their own stories. The stories that they tell, and the way they tell it, will enlighten you on your journey to decolonization.

You see, this show isn’t just for Native Americans making fun of white people. It’s about Native Americans having some fun telling their history in order to educate everyone on what really happened following the Wounded Knee Massacre. From Indian schools to serving in the wars, we follow one family from generation to generation as they battle all of the crap that America has dealt to the Native American.

This show was mesmerizing, funny, and lively. When they passed around a bucket asking for money, I thought they were joking until the bucket landed on my lap and it was filled with dollar bills. I never carry cash, so they caught me with $16 cash in my wallet, so I gave it all to them. It’s the whole starving actor thing for me. Gets me every time. Some might say white guilt, but I’m not white. And if we were going on white guilt, boy, by the time that bucket hit my lap, they would have been lucky to buy a slice of pizza in NYC during these inflated times.

At the end of the show, it got a little wild and crazy. They made everyone get out of their seats and dance along with them. Jana Schmieding (Rutherford Falls, Reservation Dogs, and Echo) said during the Native Representation in Contemporary Media panel that when non-Natives write stories about Native Americans, it tends to be about oppression and apocalyptic worlds. But when Native Americans write their stories, they tend to paint the world the way they want to see the world…with the happy ending.

So when I tell you that this ending was insane…it’s what made me laugh the most. In a happily ever after Native American ending, all white people would just disappear off the face of the planet. There would be no climate change. No capitalism. No poverty. Everything that is wrong with the world would be fixed and the entire world would be happy again.

This is what that happy ending would look like.

Trust me, I was shocked they said it. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but laugh. This is what Schmieding meant.

Between Two Knees is a production written by The 1491s and directed by Eric Ting. For those who’ve seen Reservation Dogs, you may know a few of the members of The 1491s: Sterlin Harjo, Dallas Goldtooth, Bobby “Dues” Wilson, Migizi Pensoneua, and Ryan RedCorn. The name Between Two Knees is derived from the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 and the Wounded Knee Occupation of the 1970s (i.e. between the two Wounded Knee historical events).

The actors were an absolutely incredible and versatile cast. I was impressed with Rachel Crowl and how she could easily switch between playing a man and a woman. Our host, Justin Gauthier, was so funny as he took us through each scene. I loved the dynamic between Wotko Long (who was in Mekko, one of my favorite Sterlin Harjo projects) and Sheila Tousey. And if you need eye candy, James Ryen ain’t so bad on the eyes. His big and bulky frame, as well as the various roles he plays in the ensemble, adds to each punchline. His presence really amplifies the hilarity of the show. Derek Garza, Shyla Lefner, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett round out the cast with Derek and Shyla taking on the lead character roles to help frame the story for each generation…essentially, they present the love story. I loved watching the two of them together.

Overall, this production went well above my imagination of what Between Two Knees could have been about. It was crazy. Insane. There were a lot of OMGs, they went there.

To the Tony Award voters, get yourselves to Perelman Performing Arts Center. This show is running through February 24, 2024. For everyone else, if you’re in NYC, go and see this show. For those outside of NYC, check to see if this show is coming to your town and go! You will not regret it. This show was a breath of fresh air. It’s so different than any other show I’ve seen. I can’t stress enough that you need to see it.