Theatre in Review

Let's cut to the chase on this review: Queen is the best show in town. 

Having its world premiere at Victory Gardens Theater, in Queen, Madhuri Shekar has delivered a knockout script, deftly directed by Joanie Schultz, and brought to life by a strong cast. 

Two PhD students - Sanam Shah (Priya Mohanty) and Ariel Spiegel (Darci Nalepa) - have spent six years examining a true-life dilemma: why honey bees are dying – a real-world environmental crisis.

Ariel does the field research, and Sanam – a highly regarded math wonder - crunches numbers for the data, which point to a farm chemical from Monsanto as the culprit. Or so five years of data have shown. But something is amiss.

Queen is a gripping account of academic intrigue laced with ethical challenges, along the lines of David Auburn’s provocative Proof, but with a much livelier pace.

The two are working under Dr. Philip Hayes (Stephen Spencer) who is to deliver within a few days a presentation on their work to an influential scientific group. The paper based on their research has been accepted for the journal Science. Dr. Hayes is gleeful about the prospects for his program, and promising access to big funding for the University.

A crisis looms as the latest research data does not support the earlier findings. Believing it stems from a glitch in the programming, Sanam searches desperately through the code. The pressure is on to bring the numbers in line with expectations.

If this sounds drab, it is anything but. Shekar lays out the science, and describes the culture of academia, in digestible bites. The human side of the drama comes to the fore in the relationship between the two women researchers, Sanam and Ariel, as the pressure mounts to get the results required by their academic overseer. BFFs, the two struggle through this growing professional chasm.

But it is the side-story about Sanam and a potential mate, Arvind Patel (Adam Poss) that leads to some exceptionally well-played scenes that steal the show – at least for me. Sanam’s diffidence about a date with Arvind (set up by her parents back in India) eventually leads to an unexpected romance.

Patel plays Arvind with a smooth, purring, throwaway manliness of that on-the-make single guy everyone knows. Sanam, who parries Arvind’s advances with vigor as he helps her puzzle out the math (he’s a math guy too, an investment manager who works in quant theory), and debate the ethical issues. To see the chemistry between Mohanty and Poss is worth a trip to the converted Biograph Theater.

Queen has been portrayed as an Earth Day oriented story, and a story of friendship among women. But it's also a showcase of great writing and acting.  Don’t miss Queen. It runs through May 14th and it's very highly recommended. 

For more show information click here

Published in Theatre in Review

 

Victory Gardens Theater continues its 42nd season with the World Premiere of Queen, written by Madhuri Shekar and directed by Joanie Schultz. Queen runs April 14 – May 14, 2017, with the press performance on Friday, April 21, 2017, at 7:30 pm at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue.

 

PhD candidates Sanam and Ariel have spent the better part of the last decade exhaustively researching vanishing bee populations across the globe. Just as these close friends are about to publish a career-defining paper, Sanam stumbles upon a miscalculation. What appears to be a small error could cause catastrophic damage to their reputations, careers, and friendship. Now, Sanam is confronted with an impossible choice: look the other way or stand by her principles and accept the consequences. 

 

The cast of Queen includes Priya Mohanty (Sanam Shah), Darci Nalepa (Ariel Spiegel), Adam Poss (Arvind Patel) and Stephen Spencer (Dr. Philip Hayes).

 

The creative team includes Chelsea Warren (scenic design), Janice Pytel (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design) and Thomas Dixon (sound design). Lynne Harris is the production stage manager. 

 

Queen by Madhuri Shekar and directed by Joanie Schultz (Cocked, The Whale) returns to Victory Gardens Theater after enthralling audiences at the 2015 IGNITION Festival of New Plays.

 

​”The current conversation around climate change, the disappearance of bees, and our nation’s response to environmental protection continues to be challenging on a daily basis," comments Artistic Director Chay Yew. ​”However, it excites me that playwright Madhuri Shekar has kept this dialogue alive and urgent in the world premiere of Queen. With Madhuri's signature wit and her uncanny ability to weave a complex yet remarkably insightful story, this play is framed by two female PhD science students from different races who want nothing more than to protect our planet and the bees that inhabit it – even at the cost of their own friendship."​

 

About the Artists

Madhuri Shekar (Playwright) is based in New York. Her plays include In Love and Warcraft, A Nice Indian Boy, Queen and Antigone, presented by the girls of St. Catherine’s. Her work has been produced, commissioned or developed at the Alliance Theatre, the Old Globe, Center Theatre Group, Victory Gardens, the Kennedy Center, Hedgebrook Playwrights Festival and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is currently a playwriting fellow at the Juilliard School and a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab. She co-created the Shakespearean web series Titus and Dronicus (titusanddronicus.com).

 

Joanie Schultz (Director) Victory Gardens Theater: Cocked, The Whale, Rest, Cocked. Regional: Sex with Strangers (Cleveland Play House); Lot's Wife (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); Hand to God (Studio Theatre). Chicago: Venus in Fur (Goodman Theatre); A Small Fire, The Cheats, Martyr, Luther (Steep Theatre); The Kid Thing (About Face Theatre/Chicago Dramatists); The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Next Theatre); Northanger Abbey (Remy Bumppo Theatre); Bruise Easy (American Theater Company); Spinning (Irish Theatre Chicago); Yankee Tavern (American Blues Theatre); Neighborhood 3 (Strawdog); The Hundred Flowers Project (Silk Road Rising), fml: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life (Steppenwolf for Young Adults); 2013 Co-Artistic Curator for Theater on the Lake. Opera: Bluebeard’s Castle, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Acis and Galatea, Carmen. Artistic Director: WaterTower Theatre (Addison, TX); former Associate Artistic Producer at Victory Gardens Theater. Fellowships: Leadership U One-on-One Fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by TCG, Drama League Fellowship, The Goodman Theatre’s Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship, SDCF Denham Fellowship, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Ensemble Member at Steep Theatre. Theater Faculty Member at Columbia College and the University of Chicago. MFA in Directing (Northwestern University).

 

PRIYA MOHANTY (Sanam Shah) Collaboraction: Gender Breakdown. Rasaka Theatre: A Widow of No Importance, A Nice Indian Boy, Vanya (That’s Life). Rasaka Theatre & Vitalist Theatre: Multitudes. Cuckoo’s Theatre Project: Anon(ymous)

 

DARCI NALEPA (Ariel Spiegel) Victory Gardens Debut. Chicago Theater: A Life Extra Ordinary, Good for Otto, Othello, Thinner Than Water, Dirty (The Gift Theatre); Kill Floor (American Theater Company); Yankee Tavern (American Blues Theater); Northanger Abbey (Remy Bumppo); The Drunken City (Steppenwolf Theatre – Next Up); Flare Path, Company (Griffin Theatre); Love and Money (Steep Theatre). Film/TV: Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, Chicago Fire, Shameless, Patriot.

 

ADAM POSS (Arvind Patel) Victory Gardens: Oedipus El Rey. Chicago credits: 2666, Teddy Ferrara, The Solid Sands Below, The Magic Play, A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre), 1984, Animals Out of Paper (Steppenwolf Theatre), The Lake Effect, Scorched (Silk Road Rising), The Beats (16th St. Theatre). Regional: The North Pool, The Lake Effect (Theatreworks Palo Alto), Macbeth (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), Lot’s Wife (Kansas City Rep), The History Boys (Studio Theatre DC). Film /TV: The Middle Distance, The Drunk, King of URLS, Speed Dating, Shameless, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Crisis, The Mob Doctor, The Chicago Code.

 

STEPHEN SPENCER (Dr. Philip Hayes). Chicago: Blizzard ’67 (16th Street); The Life of Galileo, Our Class, Night and Day (Remy Bumppo); Body+Blood (Gift Theatre); The Quality of Life (The Den & TOTL); Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Wait Until Dark (Court); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Congo Square/Goodman); The Liquid Moon (Chicago Dramatists/Associate Artist); Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost (OPFT). Regional: Blackbird (Riverside Theatre); Romeo & Juliet, The Winter's Tale (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Rep); Heroes (Nebraska Rep). Also: Utah Shakespeare, The Asolo. Overseas: Medeamaterial (Moscow's Leninsky Komsomol Theatre); Battery (Edinburgh Festival Fringe). Film/TV: Empire, Public Enemies, Mr. Lonely, Greg’s Leg, Morning Due (Cannes).

 

Full Performance Schedule

Previews for Queen are April 14-20, 2017. Previews are $15-$40. Regular performances run April 22 – May14, 2017: Tuesday — Friday at 7:30pm; Saturday at 3pm and 7:30pm; Sunday at 3:00pm.  Regular performances are $15-$60.

 

Victory Gardens has partnered with mobile theater ticketing app TodayTix to offer free tickets for the first preview of Queen. Free Tickets will be available via TodayTix mobile lottery, launching one week before the first preview on Friday, April 8, 2017. Winners will be notified by email and push notification between 12:00pm and 3:00pm on the day of the first preview, Friday, April 14, 2017. 

 

Performances are at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets and information, call the Victory Gardens Box Office, 773.871.3000, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit www.victorygardens.org. Ask the Box Office about student tickets ($15), senior, and Access. For group discounts, call 872.817.9087.

 

Public Programs

Public Programs is an event series designed to enhance your experience by exploring themes and issues within Victory Gardens Theater’s productions. Connecting our theater to the world beyond the stage and rehearsal room, Public Programs bridge ideas, provoke dialogue, and deepen the relationship between our audiences and our productions

 

A full and updated schedule of special events, post-show discussions and presentations centered on performances of Queen is available at www.victorygardens.org . All events are free unless otherwise noted. For more information, call 773.871.3000 or visit the Victory Gardens website.

 

AFTERWORDS

After every performance of QUEEN (unless otherwise noted)

Join us for one of our intimate post-show conversations. Led by members from the Victory Gardens community—artistic affiliates, subscribers, Artistic staff, Teen Arts Council members, The Council of Community Leaders, and community partners— reflect on what you’ve seen and share your response.

 

HONEY, HONEY

Pre-show celebration | Post-show conversation

April 18, 2017

Reception begins at 6:30pm in the Victory Gardens lobby

Post-Show conversation to follow the evening performance of Queen

Avocados, coffee, cilantro, strawberries, and, yes, honey. All foods that we enjoy because of bees. What do we lose when we lose bees? Join us for a pre-show honey tasting and beekeeping demonstrations, featuring urban beekeepers in Chicago. After the performance of QUEEN, join local beekeepers to talk about the loss of bees from a more personal perspective.

 

YAAAS QUEEN

Pre-show celebration | Post-show conversation

April 19, 2017

Reception begins at 6:30pm in the Victory Gardens lobby

Post-Show conversation to follow the evening performance of Queen

STEM: Science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Just 25% of the workforce in these fields is comprised of women. Join us for a pre-show celebration to recognize the women like Sanam and Ariel who have pushed ahead in a field that continually tries to shut them out. After this performance of QUEEN, join us for a discussion with local scholars, researchers, and scientists about their work and experiences in the field.

 

ARTIST TALK WITH MADHURI SHEKAR

Post-show conversation

April 20, 2017 | Following the evening performance of Queen

Have you ever wondered what goes into writing a play like QUEEN? Join playwright Madhuri Shekar and our Director of New Play Development Isaac Gomez as they delve into the process of developing a new play from the ground up.

 

EARTH DAY

Pre-show celebration

April 22, 2017 | 6:30pm in the Victory Gardens Lobby

Every day should be Earth Day! How can we make daily changes to care for our planet? Join us for an evening of interactive events including a food waste composting demo, Zero Waste Challenge performances from local artists and activists whose work centers around the environment. Then, join us for an evening performance of QUEEN. Each ticket includes a gift bag with seeds to help you start your bee-friendly garden and other fun favors! 

 

FROM STEM TO STEAM

April 29, 2017 | Following the evening performance of Queen

Art and science are often seen from the opposite ends of the education spectrum. But they are more connected than we may think. Science and art are both methods to understand our place in the world and why things happen the way they do. Join us after tonight’s performance of QUEEN for a post-show full of science-related poetry; applying math and science to the arts, applying art to math and science.

 

COLLEGE NIGHT

Pre-show celebration | Post-show conversation

May 12, 2017

Reception begins at 6:30pm in the Victory Gardens lobby with Post-Show conversation to follow the evening performance of Queen

Gender parity is just one issue that the scientists in QUEEN, Sanam and Ariel, face throughout their careers. Even among the struggle, there is joy and pride to be found in the work that they did and will continue to do. Their fight is not just fictional: women comprise only 25% of the workforce in STEM fields.

Join us for a night of short plays written and performed by Chicago college students from Northwestern,

DePaul, University of Chicago, and Columbia, reflecting on the challenges that women face in their professional lives.

 

BEE IN THE KNOW

May 13, 2017 | Following the evening performance of Queen

In our current political climate, the issue of climate change is an often contentious one. A clear partisan issue, what does this mean in the years to come? How is climate change affecting our day to day lives and how can we get involved? Join us after tonight’s performance of QUEEN as we talk with local scientists, activists, and scholars and dive into climate change and its effect on the bee population, as well as on our futures.

 

 

FACT SHEET/Queen

 

Title: Queen

Written by: Madhuri Shekar

Directed by: Joanie Schultz

 

Previews: April 14 – 20, 2017

Regular run: April 22 – May 14, 2017

 

Schedule:     Tuesdays - Fridays: 7:30pm 

Saturdays: 3:00pm; 7:30pm

Sundays:         3:00pm

 

Accessible

Performances: Word for Word (open captioning) performances Friday, April 28 at 7:30pm, Saturday, April 29 at 3:00pm, and Wednesday, May 3 at 2:00pm

 

ASL Interpreted performance on Friday, April 28 at 7:30pm

 

Audio Description/Touch Tour performances Friday, April 28 at 7:30pm (Touch tour at 6:00pm), Sunday, May 7 at 3:00pm (Touch tour at 1:30pm)

 

Location: Victory Gardens Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood

 

TICKETS

Previews: $15 - $40 

Regular run: $15 - $60

Box Office: The Box Office is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago.

773.871.3000; www.victorygardens.org.

 

Lead Production Sponsor: The William and Orli Staley Foundation

 

Production Sponsors Edgerton Foundation; Author Anupy Singla, Co-founder Indian As Apple Pie; Metropolitan Capital Bank, NEA Art Works, REAM Foundation, Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Student Matinee and Youth Engagement 

Sponsors: Exelon and AllState

 

Season Sponsors: Allstate, Alphawood Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Exelon, Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, The Joyce Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Prince Charitable Trust, The REAM Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and The Wallace Foundation

 

Travel Sponsor: Southwest Airlines 

 

Queen is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.

 

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org.  Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at instagram.com/victorygardenstheater/

 

 

 

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