“Queen of the Night” is a drama of familial reconciliation

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Two men sitting on small chairs at a campsite.
Queen of the Night (Photo by Stephanie Gamba)
Two men sitting on the ground outside.
Queen of the Night (Photo by Stephanie Gamba)

West Orange’s Luna Stage is currently presenting playwright travis tate’s Queen of the Night, a portrayal of a father and son coming to terms with each other — and their family dynamic — in the course of an unusual weekend.

Stephen (Roy Jackson) and his son Ty (Adrian Baidoo) are on an outdoor expedition in the woods outside of Houston, the weekend before the wedding of Stephen’s other son. Stephen, a blue-collar worker who loves the outdoors, finds pleasure in bird watching and stargazing. Ty, an openly gay artist, thinks a relaxing weekend does not involve tents, sleeping bags, and campfires. 

During the course of the weekend, Ty’s assessments of Stephen as a father conflict with Stephen’s attempts to understand and bond with his son. While airing their recriminations and frustrations, they find themselves reluctantly working together.

One might think that the play’s title refers to a character from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, or that it is a campy allusion to Ty as a gay man. However, according to playwright tate, it is a plant whose flowers only blossom at night. There are plenty of these flowers growing around the campsite set designed by Ellie Carhart and Lucas Pinner, which manages to be both naturalistic and stagey (in a good way).

Pinner, who also directs, skillfully guides his cast through the emotional journey of this play, endowing it with honest moments of regret and reconciliation. In the performances of Jackson and Baidoo, you can see the love and the yearning for communication between father and son hiding beneath their verbal sparring.

Playwright travis tate shows a talent for creating characters caught in all too human misunderstandings and conflict. I will be interested in seeing future works by them. For now, if what you are looking for is a tale about repairing family bonds, I suggest you see Queen of the Night before its brief run concludes.

Queen of the Night is presented by Luna Stage in West Orange through June 9, 2024. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to lunastage.org or call 973-395-5551.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.