Thursday September 21st 2017

“Queen”

Recommended *** If you have had the opportunity to earn your Doctorate, or have watched a relative or friend do so, you know the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the god, bad and the ugly that comes with the territory. In Madhuri Shekar’s “Queen”, now in its World Premiere at Victory Gardens Theater, PhD candidates Saneem (deliciously portrayed by Priya Mohanty) and Ariel (deftly handled by Darci Nalepa) have been working together for almost ten years researching the vanishing bee population; the whys and wherefores, and of course the “corporate culprit” that has caused this to occur. Because of their work ethic and time spent as a “unit”, they have become very close in their personal lives as well. Anyone who has spent time with or as a PhD candidate knows there is very little personal life, so what little life each has is shared with the other.

These two ladies, from different ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles, working together as a unit, unified in their fight versus corporate America to save the bees is a thing of beauty. Sanham, an Indian, as we learn is betrothed (family traditions, of course) to Arvind Patel (perfectly played by Adam Poss). Their first meeting is a disaster, and yet, an evening that brings Sanam face-to-face with her own situation. Earlier that day, just as they are preparing to publish their paper, they find there is a small error; one that could cause great damage to their reputations and their careers, and perhaps even the friendship that they have grown over the years and the project.

Ariel, is a single mother, whose parents had been “Bee-keepers” and because of the problem they have been exploring, the corporation that is killing the bees, they lost everything. She has very little money and as we later learn from her “sponsor” Dr. Hayes( deftly handled by Stephen Spencer) is on a “free-ride” to no future if the thesis is not as ordained. Finely directed by Joanie Schultz, this 90-minute (no intermission) piece is one that holds your attention, from start to finish. The stage at Victory Gardens is fairly empty, but there is a riser, and several areas where the action takes place. Nothing fancy (designed by Chelsea Warren) but practical, allowing us to focus on the actors and the story itself. Heather Gilbert’s lighting and Thomas Dixon’s sound along with Janice Pytel’s costumes round out the tech side. The projections are handled by Aaron Quick.

The beauty of the story is the quickness in which we go from one scene to another, keeping us involved along the route they must take. There is a major error! One that will have a major effect on both the ladies and their futures. It will also have a great affect on their sponsor. After all, he is the one that backed them on this project. While part of what we witness is each one’s look at the direction they should or must take. If they take a short-cut and change the numbers to make the proof work for the findings, are they cheating? Are they breaking the law? Will they be ruined? On the other hand, if they drop the project and do not complete their thesis, are they failed and disgraced?

Shekar does an amazing job of story-building, allowing for easy ways out as well as ways to dig in deeper, for each, alone and for both! I will not tell you which roads are taken and what does happen, but will say that this is a play about friendship- pure and true (maybe that’s a hint). Should one look the other way or should one stand by their principles and beliefs? For those of you familiar with the IGNITION Festival of new plays at VG, this particular script was read/presented at the 2015 IGNITION. Now, only two years later, a full production that is as exciting as one might hope for.

“Queen” will continue thru May 14th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3  and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $15-$60 and are available at the box office located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue (the old Biograph Theater) by calling 773-871-3000 or online at www.victorygardens.org

ACCESSIBLE PERFORMANCES:

Word-for-word (open caption) April 28th, April 29th and May 3rd

ASL (signed)  April 28th

Audio Description (with a touch-tour)  4/28  TT at 6 p.m. show at 7:30 p.m.

5/7    TT at 1:30 p.m. performance at 3 p.m.

Special Earth Day activities  on April 22nd at 6:30 p.m.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Queen”.

Parking is still available at he old Children’s Hospital Garage just down the street, meters around the theater and a few free spots, but zoned 143 for nights.

Valet parking is also available at the front door.

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