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Queen of the Night – Not Quite a Royal Reign

Queen of the Night – Not Quite a Royal Reign
After over 750 plus days dark, Victory Gardens Theater is mounting its first new production of their mainstage season and of the year.  Queen of the Night, written by travis tate, is a 2-character play proving no one can get under your skin quite like family. Directed by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin, Queen of the Nigh focuses on a divorced father, Stephen (Andre Teamer) and queer adult son, Ty (Terry Guest) but thankfully, this isn’t the same old unaccepting parental tale we have seen so many times before. Each character has secrets to reveal, but sexuality isn’t one of them. travis tate, a queer, black playwright himself, spins a web of two men who know exactly who they are, if not where they are, in their lives. Trying to recapture the fun from camping trips taken back when Ty was a lad, this father and son might be camping in a Texas state park, but there is no backwards thinking on display.

Terry Guest, Andre Teamer Photo by Adrian O. Walker

Terry Guest, Andre Teamer Photo by Adrian O. Walker

Former President Barak Obama once said “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.” Those words kept echoing through my mind while I was watching this play unfold. While both men might have been a bit out of their individual comfort zones, each character’s journey was to their own self-acceptance. There wasn’t any visible resentment or discomfort between them. Perhaps peppering in a little might have made for an edgier and more engrossing production. There were so many extraneous distractions to the plot; a growling bear we only hear in the distance, poor cellphone reception, occasional texts from another son not featured in the play and finally, and most humorously, a series of snippets of Celine Dion power ballads played over a handheld radio. Each pulling so much focus from a hard to pin down main narrative, I found myself thinking “get to the point already!” This not so dynamic duo so congenial with one another, any residual guilt over a past divorce or any discomfort with regard to being homosexual in the black community, barely registering a blip on the radar.

Andre Teamer Photo by Adrian O. Walker

Terry Guest Photo by Adrian O. Walker

Playing out in the upstairs Richard Christiansen Theater, the action of Queen of the Night all took place in a campground. Sydney Lynne’s scenic design impressed even in such an intimate performance space. Rueben D. Echoles is quickly establishing himself as the go to person for solid costuming at medium sized theaters. Last week, Echoles was responsible for dressing a near dozen glamorous divas from head to toe in sequins and gowns for Mercury Theater Chicago’s Women of Soul. Here, Echoles real world costuming helps ground this tale. Nothing remotely glamourous about earth tone, thigh-high, Bootfoot waders for fishing or tube socks in sleeping bags. Sim Carpenter and Conner Sale’s lighting, ranging from dawn to dusk and between scene flickering fireflies in the background, an essential element to the proceedings. Even G Clausen’s sound design, that menacing bear’s growl, close enough to elicit fear, but far enough away that we didn’t feel in any present danger.

Andre Teamer Terry GuestPhoto by Adrian O. Walker

Terry Guest, Andre Teamer Photo by Adrian O. Walker

Queen of the Night felt a bit like a theater workshop. The moments of real substance, a father struggling with the fact he has just been downsized out of a job, guilt over not always being there for his children in the aftermath of a divorce, the self-acceptance of a gay man in the black community, were buried under a lot of superfluous filler. Sifting through the peripheral, Queen had some real moments of promise. Queen of the Night may not be a reigning hit yet, but it is a provocative night of theater for those craving such.

Terry Guest, Andre TeamerPhoto by Adrian O. Walker

Queen of the Night is now playing at Mercury Theater Chicago now through March 13, 2022

Out of Town

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.

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