Monday, March 18, 2024

"Queen" ★ ★ ★ ★

We live in an acrimonious world. There are two sides to every story, yours and the other guy's, and there seems to be little attempt to explore the dangers of opinions pre-cast in stone.

This reviewer happens to have a scientist child who is involved in research that may or may not be welcomed by the current political climate. What has to be trusted is the science. Madhuri Shekar's thought-provoking new play, "Queen," opens up the reality of the research world: People do the science, and people have issues of their own that can possibly cloud their results.

Kjerstine Rose Anderson plays Ariel, best friend and research partner of Sanam, played by Uma Paranjpe. Both young women are graduate students at UC Santa Cruz, a minor player in the Harvard/Stanford-dominated world of academia. They are studying the habits of honey bees, whose numbers have been decreasing precipitously over the course of their research. They believe the culprit to be Monsanto, the agrochemical giant, because the bees' decline has corresponded to the introduction of a particularly dangerous pesticide.

Have you ever tried to talk to your family about politics? No matter what you say, it confirms what they already think. There is a name for this: Confirmation Bias. But what about when what your research is attempting to prove influences what you see and how that research is interpreted? Add into this everyone's desperate search for funding.

Mike Ryan plays a professor anxious to make a name for himself on the back of Ariel and Sanam's research, as long as it supports his theory. His career is riding on a blockbuster publication of this data. 

Meanwhile, Deven Kolluri plays Arvind, an Indian-American derivatives analyst whose obnoxious character flaws as a potential boyfriend for Sanam seem impossible to overcome. But he sees the world for what it is, not what it might be. What we see is not necessarily what we get. 

Congratulations to Ms. Shekar and Director Miriam A. Laube for bringing us back to the honeybees, and to nature as well as common sense. The twist at the curtain makes for a honey of an ending.

RATINGS: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The San Francisco Theater Blog grants FOUR STARS to Madhuri Shekar's "Queen." Story, acting and staging (we love those drop-down study lights) earn one star each and the honesty of the ending earns another. This show gives us hope. 


Lucie Stern Theatre

1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

Through 3/31/24


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