Thursday, March 14, 2024

More than bees are threatened in 'Queen'


Mike Ryan (left), Uma Paranjpe and Kjerstine Rose Anderson are featured in 'Queen.' (Kevin Berne photo)

Friendship and ethics are both challenged in Madhuri Shekar’s “Queen,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

Ariel (Kjerstine Rose Anderson), an ecology researcher and single mother, and Sanam (Uma Paranjpe), an applied mathematician from India, are UC Santa Cruz Ph.D. students who have been studying bee colony collapse for several years.

In bee colony collapse, the worker bees abandon the queen and disappear. Therefore, they no longer pollinate the food crops that the world needs. Continued unabated, it could lead to mass starvation.

The two women, who have developed a close working relationship and friendship, believe that agricultural pesticides have caused the problem.

They’re close to publishing their findings in the prestigious journal Nature when Sanam finds additional data that don’t agree with their previous numbers.

Their supervising professor, Philip (Mike Ryan), wants them to publish anyway, as does Ariel, but Sanam doesn’t. It’s an ethical dilemma that threatens the women’s friendship.

In the meantime, Sanam has had a dinner date with Arvind (Deven Kolluri), an Indian American financier, as a prelude to an arranged marriage.

At first, he bores her by bragging about a poker game in which he uses his skill with numbers. However, that skill interests her, so she asks him to help her find any flaw in her new numbers for the bee research.

This intriguing play, with its cast of skilled actors, is directed by Miriam A. Laube, known to many Bay Area theatergoers for her years as an actor and director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In keeping with the bee theme, the set by Nina Ball features honeycomb panels, while the sound design by James Ard often buzzes. The costumes are by Lisa Claybaugh, the lighting by Kent Dorsey.

“Queen” runs about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, through March 31.

For tickets and information, call (877)-662-8978 or visit