Michael Mejia directs Laura Ruohonen’s 2003 exploration of power, identity, and freedom in Trap Door Theatre’s return to in-person performance. Loosely based on Queen Christina, the 17th-century Swedish monarch who abdicated because she couldn’t rule on her own terms, Queen C pays only cursory lip service to period specificity. The message is spelled out at the top with a farcical nature video about the hideous angler fish. The powerful female basically absorbs the tiny male until he becomes a tiny sac of gonads attached to her rough, spiky epidermis—a kind of genetic Pez dispenser, accessed only when necessary for furthering the species.
Through 12/4: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 11/28, 7 PM; no show Thu 11/25, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, trapdoortheatre.com, $20 Thu, $25 Fri-Sat (also two for one Thu).
The queen is at war with her mother—a deranged personage who only appears via video—as well as suitors, friends, and functionaries. Her only solace is an ancient eel who lives in a seemingly bottomless well on the royal grounds. She’s dazzled by its mythical ability to produce hundreds of eggs without hardly ever having to eat.
Every Trap Door production I’ve seen is distinguished by fierce, fully committed, in-your-face acting, and this one’s no different. Usually this passionate delivery is enough to lift even wanting material, but not this time. While the queen’s desire not to be defined by others—whether by gender, sexual preference, or in any other way—rings true and is of the moment, there’s a shrill, portentous tone to this text that even this talented cast can’t overcome. The use of video is also distracting. The play seems more confused about its identity than the queen herself.