Art Basel is one of the premier art events of the year in Miami Beach. It attracts the ultra-wealthy with its lavish parties and wild festivities. It portrays a relevant backdrop to a modern adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1888 chief example of naturalism, “Miss Julie,” an exploration of class and gender. “Queen of Basel” by Hilary Bettis and directed by José Zayas takes this piece of literature and catapults it into the modern world.
Julie is an heiress who wants to do something important but is struggling in a world that doesn’t take her completely seriously. John is an Uber driver who also wants to amount to more. He is engaged to Christine who desperately wants to do what is best for her family. These three individuals collide in a storage kitchen during Art Basel with power and destruction.
…’Miss Julie,’ an exploration of class and gender. ‘Queen of Basel’ by Hilary Bettis and directed by José Zayas takes this piece of literature and catapults it into the modern world.
The script pays homage to Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” not just through the characters but in the functional dialogue with little exposition. It is abrupt and moves quickly which is a prime element of naturalism. Everything happens in real time and the action all takes place in the same room.
Julie, played by Christy Escobar, is fierce and pushes the story along with her tenacious strength. Her driving power forced the story on and carried the majority of the action.
Andy Lucien’s John is complex and connects the story with ordinary people, outside of Julie’s ultra-glamorous life. He makes smart acting choices and is deeply connected to his scene partners. He provides the real emotional drive in the story.
Christine is played by Dalia Davi, a dynamic bilingual actor whose presence is grounding on stage. She jolts John and Julie into the reality of their situation. She is gentle and strong all at the same time. Davi’s energy gives the story great depth and draws the audience in.
The set, designed by Debra Booth, is an industrial kitchen where all of the action takes place. There are many levels and areas for the actors to explore. Lighting designer Andrew Cissna provided realistic lights in the space.
Bettis has created a new “Miss Julie,” one where everyone is both oppressed and oppressor in some way. It handles not only socioeconomic status and gender but also race. For the audience member who knows “Miss Julie,” it will feel fairly different. The struggle for power in “Queen of Basel” is even stronger yet different in a positive and relevant way.
Advisory: Contains adult language, adult content, lapse in sobriety, blood
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
“Queen of Basel” runs at Studio Theatre through April 7. For tickets and more information click here.