From left, Monique Barbee, Cristina Spina, Ayeje Feamster and Juliana Francis-Kelly each play a version of Queen Elizabeth I in “texts&beheadings/ElizabethR” at Folger Theatre. (Teresa Wood)

A dignitary should know how to make a proper entrance, and Elizabeth I — all four of her — gets the business right in “texts&­beheadings/ElizabethR.” Created and directed by the adventurous Karin Coonrod, this stylized, playful, sometimes scattershot meditation on the Tudor monarch’s life and writings casts a quartet of actresses in the role of the Virgin Queen. In the opening moments of the show, produced by the New York-based Compagnia de’ Colombari theater collective and presented by Folger Theatre, the four Elizabeths appear, one by one, in a doorway at the back of the stage.

A near-silhouette against a red background, each woman walks into view, appears to see the audience and hesitates. You can see her warily register the publicness of the moment and put on the necessary layers of aura and reserve. Then she proceeds downstage to take a seat on one of four tall-backed gold chairs that constitute the set’s only furniture.

That moment of assessing hesitation deftly introduces the theme of the queen’s self-aware public persona, a key motif in this hour-long fantasia, woven together largely from passages in letters, poems, prayers and other documents penned by Elizabeth herself. The show conjures up a blue blood who is smart, talented, independent, superbly educated and hyper-competent and who possesses a dry wit. “To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it,” she observes tartly at one point.

Above all, this royal luminary is savvy about her own constructed public image. “A thousand eyes see all that I do,” she notes. All in all, this Elizabeth would make a fabulous dinner guest, but you’d only be hobnobbing with the version of her that she wanted you to witness.

Four loosely defined versions of Henry VIII’s younger daughter display themselves in the four principal sections of “texts&­beheadings,” whose world premiere run at the Folger is part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. One performer principally anchors each section, although the entire cast stays onstage throughout, speaking the words of Elizabeth and her contemporaries, intermittently executing choreographed movements and occasionally offering a snippet of modern perspective. (“It’s complicated,” a performer quips during a sequence describing the queen’s mixed feelings about the death of Mary, Queen of Scots.)

The vibrant Italian actress Cristina Spina is central to an overview section, which sums up some of Elizabeth’s approaches to ruling, including her refusal to get too involved in the era’s religious conflicts and her refusal to marry. Spina occasionally speaks in Italian, drawing attention to the fact that Elizabeth was an accomplished polyglot.

Exuding vulnerability, Monique Barbee channels a younger Elizabeth threatened by — and diplomatically evading — the lethal power plays that roiled England before her own coronation. A regal Ayeje Feamster depicts a relatively humble, solemn, crowned monarch in a section whose script is largely made up of prayers Elizabeth wrote. Juliana Francis-Kelly infuses a touch of majestic fretfulness into a portrait of Elizabeth exercising power at the zenith of her career. (Costume designer Oana Botez underscores the same-but-different motif with subtly varied Renaissance-style gowns in black and metal tones.)

Life in Tudor England could be a precarious business, as the show frequently reminds us with a chilling recurrent sound effect: a metallic thudding that suggests both the sound of a beheading and the slamming of a door in the Tower of London.

Less sinister than the ax-chop sound, but still in a steely register, are four darkly whimsical set pieces that the actors announce as “Game Number 1,” “Game Number 2” and so on. One game, “Dissing Elizabeth,” features the actors reading — from large red cards — unflattering comments by Queen Bess’s contemporaries. Another — accompanied by a clever visual effect it would be a shame to reveal here — has three actors reciting a list of elaborate articles of clothing worn by Elizabeth while Francis-Kelly mimes a sovereign wearily consenting to be dressed.

Ultimately, the script for “texts&beheadings” is not entirely satisfying: The selection and arrangement of texts sometimes has a grab-bag feel, as if every appealing anecdote and quote that turned up during the research phase had found its way into the show. (Some of the texts the script quotes are in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection.) Themes and lines occasionally repeat in a way that seems more redundant than poetic, the modern quips don’t occur often enough to feel organic, and the sequence of “movements” and “games” doesn’t create a real sense of development or deepening.

But Coonrod wasn’t aiming for development. In her director’s notes, she compares the show to a collage and a kaleidoscopic image. This unconventional approach certainly succeeds on one score: It captures a historical personage who is magnetic and intriguing. Exiting “texts&beheadings,” you rather wish the real Elizabeth I had been your date; she’d doubtless have something insightful to say.

Wren is a freelance writer.

“Texts&beheadings/ElizabethR,” created and directed by Karin Coonrod. Composer, Gina Leishman; dramaturgy and scenic design, John Conklin; lighting, Peter Ksander; movement, Adrian Silver; hair and makeup, Jon Carter. About 65 minutes. Tickets: $35. Through Sunday at Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. 202-544-7077. www.folger.edu.