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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2011-12 Reviews Broadway Review: STICK FLY
Sunday, 15 January 2012 18:21

Broadway Review: STICK FLY

Written by
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Condola Rashad, Mekhi Phifer, Rosie Benton, Tracie Thoms and Dulé Hill Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Condola Rashad, Mekhi Phifer, Rosie Benton, Tracie Thoms and Dulé Hill Photo: Richard Termine

Broadway new-comer Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly is a prickly family dramedy that incorporates racism, class warfare between races, and more poignantly, in this case, class warfare amongst African Americans.  Ms. Diamond has crafted a wealthy black family, the LeVays, and set them in a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard for a few days summer respite. What ensues might be considered anything but a respite.

{module ad_left_body}Arriving home first is Kent played by Dulé Hill (TV’s “Psyche”) and his new girlfriend Taylor played by Tracie Thoms.  Taylor is the daughter of a well known African-American historian. She has a giant chip on her shoulder owing to the lack of recognition by her father. Kent’s father, Joe LeVay, played by Tony-Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, is impressed when Kent brings her home. Beyond that, he’s not impressed with much that his son has accomplished despite paying for his son to receive two advanced degrees. Taylor’s big news on this trip is that he is about to become a published novelist. A fact which is completely lost on his father.

Next to arrive home is Flip, played by Mekhi Phifer (TV’s “ER”). He is an accomplished plastic surgeon who has a new girlfriend arriving any minute. He sets up her arrival by telling his father that she is Italian (translated, white).  In fact, Kimber is not only white, but she’s a WASP.  Her only possible credentialing into this family is having been a political science major with a focus on African-American studies. Her dissertation was on achievement gap issues.  This is where it gets prickly, as Taylor and Kimber lock horns as to credibility.

Making her Broadway debut, Condola Rashad (Off-Broadway’s Ruined), is Cheryl the daughter of the LeVay family’s maid.  She is filling in for her ailing mother. Having grown up with the family, she is practically a sister to the LeVay children.  Being forced into the role of maid is awkward.  Even more awkward is her inability to stop playing the role of maid and slide back into the role of sister when invited.  Rashad gives Cheryl a wonderful stinging edge.

Ms. Diamond’s script, while full of minor conflict among family members, is given an added dimension by the inclusion of the discussion of class dynamics. The play’s real pièce de résistance is a plot turn (which I won’t share here) that requires everyone in the play to examine their own feelings of class and forever alters the relationship between Cheryl and the LeVay boys.

Hill’s performance as Taylor was stilted.  Phifer as Flip was mush-mouthed and hard to understand at times.  As Joe, Ruben Santiago-Hudson (known for his work on August Wilson plays and a Tony winner for Seven Guitars) is solid despite being miscast as the demanding father. The ladies all give outstanding performances, with Condola Rashad’s being a standout.  Her meek facade is hilarious when punctuated with sarcastic asides. One minor complaint, I did occasionally find her asides hard to hear.

Director Kenny Leon has given Stick Fly a brisk pace but I wonder if he could have gotten more even performances from the men in the cast.  

The set by David Gallo, and the lighting by Beverly Emmons, have beautifully set the scene of a lovely Martha’s Vineyard getaway and the LeVay’s life of privilege (upon which so much of the play’s conflict centers).

If I have one major gripe with Stick Fly, it’s the title and the paper-thin premise from which it is derived.  It is a reference to Taylor’s study of insects. Despite this minor flaw, Stick Fly is a wonderful new play from a playwright from whom I suspect we will see more great things.

Tickets for Stick Fly are currently on sale through April 8th at the Cort Theatre.

Last modified on Saturday, 21 January 2012 12:34