Good actors, scrappy characters, and yet...
I saw Queens on the eve of Independence Day, so I was particularly struck by the fact that not a single positive thing was said about the United States in the entire show.
How can you write a play about people who sacrifice everything else to get to a place while simultaneously saying nothing positive about that place? The answer is: present a set of characters who are here strictly for the economic opportunities, women who don’t particularly like America or Americans. Have them look back fondly to their country of origin without mentioning its drug cartels or Sharia law. Don’t mention religious or political persecution, because that might make America look good in comparison.
Don’t mention anything about America’s founding principles, American history, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, or the fact that women in America have equal rights.
Write characters who don’t see anything good about America other than the opportunity to make money. And then don’t explain why there are more opportunities to make money in America.
Then make those characters tough and scrappy, so that the audience can admire and root for them. It helps if you have (as this production does) superb acting and a striking set.
Queens is an accurate reflection of our current political malaise. It focuses on the personal and the visceral. It drums up sympathy while never transcending emotional reactions. It’s as if we were all on the yellow brick road, not skipping hand-in-hand, helping one another to a place of healing, but doing a push-me-pull-me, shouting at one another, “If only you had a heart!” and “If only you had a brain!”