Not a walk in the park: Father-and-son camping trip gets intense, in ‘Queen of the Night’

QUEEN OF the night review


Adrian Baidoo, left, and Roy Jackson co-star in “Queen of the Night” at Luna Stage in West Orange.

“I love the outdoors,” says Ty in the first line of travis tate’s two-character play “Queen of the Night,” currently making its New Jersey premiere at Luna Stage in West Orange. Actor Adrian Baidoo’s face tells another story, though. This guy would rather be anywhere else.

He is in a Texas state park with his father Stephen (played by Roy Jackson), who carries himself with the gruff, no-nonsense edge of a drill sergeant. When Ty responds to his father’s question’s with “Yes sir” and “No sir,” he is only half joking. Stephen naturally commands that kind of respect.

queen of the night review


Adrian Baidoo, left, and Roy Jackson in “Queen of the Night.”

The brawny Stephen is the one who really loves the outdoors; he sees camping as a way “to get back to our manhood, our primitive state.” The skinny Ty, on the other hand, gets through their camping trip by sulking, worrying about bears and bugs, and staying glued to his cell phone.

Ty is a gay artist who has had some success in his career; Stephen, a recently laid-off factory worker, is straight and straitlaced, but respects the fact that Ty is living his life on his own terms. Beyond the fact that they are members of the same family, they don’t seem to have much in common with each other — on the surface, at least.

And as you would expect, in the course of their trip, grievances are aired, secrets are shared, memories — both good and bad — are recalled, and the two members of this odd couple get in touch, to some degree, with the deep love they have for each other.

tate’s vision is sweet and hopeful — though maybe a bit unrealistic, given the deep chasm that seems to exist between the two characters at the start of the play.

Still, Baidoo and Jackson do a good job at creating characters who are memorably distinct but still share some traits: A stubborn streak, a tendency to question the status quo, a yearning to connect.


Adrian Baidoo, left, and Roy Jackson in “Queen of the Night.”

Lucas Pinner directs, and shares scenic design credit with Ellie Carhart; they have succeeded in creating a convincingly rustic setting for the action, with sound designer David Seamon adding a constant undercurrent of bird chirping and other nature sounds, and occasional passages of pensive music that underscore the idea that some really deep communication is going on here.

And it is.

Why are Stephen and Ty even here in the first place? Stephen’s ex-wife (and Ty’s mother) is getting remarried, and they are both going to the ceremony. Stephen wanted to do some camping, on the way, and Ty didn’t want him to be alone. Stephen’s other son (and Ty’s brother), a wealthy lawyer, was too busy to make it.

Ty is an ex-Boy Scout and no camping novice: He pitches his tent on his own, though it doesn’t really look right until Stephen snaps everything into place, perfectly.

When Ty wonders if his father brought a hot plate, his father scoffs at the idea. He will make a fire, and that will be good enough. And when Ty, who occasionally breaks out into Celine Dion songs, brings up the concept of “glamping” — “camping, but in a glamorous way: glamorous camping,” he explains — his father responds with disgust.

The glamping thing is a good example of a shortcoming in tate’s writing, though. It is clear that Stephen and Ty have been camping together many times before, and know what they are in for, on this trip. But occasionally Ty seems too clueless to be believed. I mean, anyone who has spent two minutes around Stephen would know that glamping would be totally out of the question for him. In reality, Ty would never even bring it up, and the fact that he does — though amusing — is a bit jarring.

Luna Stage in West Orange will present “Queen of the Night” through June 9. Visit


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