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THEATER REVIEW Queen of the Night
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2022-02-11

This article shared 825 times since Fri Feb 11, 2022
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When city men embark on camping trips (in fiction, anyway), they can be expected to a) bring their cellphones, b) discourse at length on confrontations with ferocious bears, c) return from fishing after catching only boots and tires, d) squabble over the correct way to build a fire, e) eat flame-scorched hot dogs, f) guzzle copious amounts of whiskey and/or g) suffer at least one comical false-alarm scare in the night. When the campers are a father and son (again, in fiction), the shift in literary genres will dictate that initial hostilities escalate into violence—verbal or physical, but rarely homicidal—followed by tearful confessions and, ultimately, reconciliation.

Playwright travis tate checks all of these boxes, but adds three components not often invoked even by enlightened writers today. The avowed purpose of this nature excursion is a male-bonding retreat for blue-collar dad Stephen and openly gay offspring Ty (older-son Marshall's corporate lawyer duties compelling his absence); the piney-wooded state park they occupy is in Texas; and Stephen and Ty are both Black.

Playgoers steeped in demographical statistics and Hollywood stereotypes may assume these factors to significantly alter the filial dynamics under scrutiny, but why should it? Tate's narrative does not concern itself with social/political issues as much as it does the cultural barriers to intergenerational accord, articulated in lyrical apostrophes (tate's resume also includes several poetry collections) functioning like songs in a musical to reveal thoughts hitherto left unspoken within the spheres of masculine behavior.

The appropriateness of Victory Gardens Theater's post-pandemic return to live performance in the studio named for the late Richard Christiansen—a champion of artistry manifested at every level of development—was acknowledged with all due reverence on its opening night by Ken-Matt Martin, under whose direction Andrew Teamer and Terry Guest proceeded to deftly navigate the complexities of a text encompassing an unseen feathered predator addressed as "Mister Owl" and later, slapstick attempts to ward off likewise invisible ursine attackers. Indeed, both actors are to be commended for sustaining a palpable presence on a stage picture dominated by the immersive fantasy-realm of scenic designer Sydney Lynne, sound designer G Clausen and lighting co-designers Conner Sale and Sim Carpenter.


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