On the home ‘straight’: Queer road trip play debuts at Jack’s new space

the straights
But not narrow: New play “The Straights,” at Jack theater through Dec. 21, tells a road trip story of two women and a non-binary person after President Trump’s election.
Will Detlefsen

They are queens of the road!

A new play follows a group of female and genderqueer characters who go on a cross-country road trip in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. “The Straights,” which opens tonight at Jack theater’s new location in Clinton Hill, subverts the typical male-dominated road trip genre — exemplified by beatnik author Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” — by showing the struggle of queer people in the year after the election of Donald Trump, according to its director.

“It’s about how do we create a community and survive and stay strong through that,” said Will Detlefsen. “It’s a play that centers queer people of color, specifically not men. That felt special when most road trip stories are dominated by men, such as ‘On the Road.’ ”

In the first half of the two-hour play, written by Taylor Adamson, the three characters set out on a journey of lighthearted shenanigans, including hitchhiking, drugs, shoplifting, and selfies, while also reflecting on the trends and then-new outrages of the early Trump administration.

“We think of it as a period piece set in 2017, because that year there was this melancholy cloud above it all,” Detlefsen said. “There was the travel ban, the White House’s LGBTQ website was being taken down — it felt very threatening.”

In the second, darker part of the play, the characters reach their destination and have to deal with serious issues that test their relationships — the details of which are spoilers, said the director. 

The play’s title is layered with meanings, including the straight and open road, the heterosexual tropes associated with the road trip genre, and a reference to the protagonists’s drug use and not being “straight-edge” sober, according to Detlefsen.

The show is part of Jack’s first season in its new performance space on Putnam Avenue, which opened in September. The venue’s directors signed a 10-year lease on the new, larger space, after seven years at their previous digs just four blocks away. The new space lets the arts group deepen its connection with the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood and provide an art hub for longtime residents and newcomers, said one of the group’s directors.

“We can really settle in and continue and invite the folks back who have been to our previous space,” said Alec Duffy. “We offer a crossroads for people of different backgrounds, people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for a long time as well as people who have just moved in, offering a channel for exchange which we think is critical for a more vibrant city.”

“The Straights” at Jack [18 Putnam Ave. between Grand Avenue and Downing Street in Clinton Hill, www.jackny.org]. Dec. 5-21 at 7:30 pm. $20.