The performance of Michaeleen O'Neil in the role of a prostitute who is mistaken for a queen is reason enough to go to the Source Theatre production of "The Queen and the Rebels."
But there are other rewards. Ugo Betti's drama about revolutionaries in a nameless country is certainly not a superior play. But Betti knows how to use irony, character, and stage suspense to make his political statement.
"The Queen and the Rebels" revolves around a group of travelers imprisoned by rebel forces searching for the old regime's queen, who has become a legend of courage during five years in hiding. Indeed, the queen is one of the travelers, disguised as a peasant woman and wanting only to live in peace.
Argia, a prostitute who has survived by looking out for her own interests, helps the weary and frightened woman who once was queen to escape. Then Argia faces the band of revolutionaries with a courage that leads them to believe she must be the queen.
As the prostitute, O'Neil returns in the role that she brought to the stage in the Source's 1978 production of Betti's play. Brassy and street-shrewd as the prostitute, she deftly transforms her character into a woman of moral fiber and dignity.
Al D'Andrea brings a cool, laid-back interpretation to the role of Commissar Amos, the only one in the revolutionary band who has more substance than a macho terrorist with a gun. He is the soft-voiced interrogator, who may not believe the revolutionary slogans but still will not stop the execution. Gilbert Oakley adds a comic touch as the opportunistic rebel who was Argia's lover.
Bart Whitman, who also did the set design, offers crisp direction of a large cast. The old town hall near the border is a suitably shabby and primitive rebel hangout.
THE QUEEN AND THE REBELS, by Ugo Betti; produced by the Source Theatre Company; direction and set design by Bart Whiteman; lighting design by Lea Hart. With Michaeleen O'Neil, Gilbert Oakley, Al D'Andrea, Prudence Barry, Steven M. Kemp, T. J. Edwards, Tim Masters, Gary Alan Sheldon, Derek Jones, Will Rokos, Robert Hunt, Patricia O'Neill, James Brent, Vanessa Stout, David Wildberger, Constance Ashworth, Dwany Horne and Chad Bishop.