Queen of Basel Synopsis

Three come together in the kitchen of a luxury Miami South Beach Hotel during Art Basel. Julie, a Miami socialite and daughter of a hotel mogul, is crying—drunk, and raging after her fiancé dumped her in front of the press. Christine, a cocktail waitress seeking asylum from political persecution in Venezuela, has been drafted by Julie’s father for damage control. In exchange for getting Julie home, Julie’s father will pay Christine more money than she’s seen at her job thus far. With a mother and daughter still in Venezuela—and no sure employment in the States—Christine can’t afford to let the opportunity go. She calls her fiancé John, a first-generation Afro-Cuban Uber driver, to get Julie away from the party, the paparazzi, the bad publicity. John has no interest in playing babysitter until Christine reveals how much money is on the line. Knowing what it could mean to Christine, to them both, he agrees to take care of things. But Julie wants to go out on her own terms.

Alone in the kitchen, John and Julie get the good wine and fall into a sparring flirtation, Julie arguing her case against her ex-fiancé, her father, the society that expects little out of her beyond her blow out and spike heels. John cat-and-mouses Julie with stories of his childhood, the chances that women have to Cinderella their way up the class food chain. Julie meets him blow for blow (and, more than once, snorts some actual cocaine), opening up about a childhood with a brilliant and overlooked mother, her hard-earned understanding of what her privileges—wealth, citizenship, education, the public eye—both provide and require of her, and her plans for how to leverage them.

As the evening progresses, all three struggle for dominance—over the drink of choice, the freedom to make their next move, their way out of the kitchen and on whose terms. A play that both embraces and upends August Strindberg’s drama of domination and class, Queen of Basel offers a clear-eyed and chilling look at the limits of freedom in the face of American realities of citizenship, race, gender, and class.

—Genevieve Henderson