“Stick Fly” aligns the upper class in any color
By Sandi Durell
It’s difficult to really like many of the characters in Lydia R. Diamond’s comedic play because they’re haughty, full of themselves and true to form as well-to-do upper middle class folks can be. However, this family is African American with money and family history, showing that color doesn’t hold much water if you’ve got the bucks.
When a weekend family reunion on Martha’s Vineyard brings the LeVay family together, there are more than dysfunctional secrets that emerge. They’re an educated group having attended the best universities; brother Flip – Harold LeVay (Mekhi Phifer), a womanizing plastic surgeon, is dating a bright educated white woman Kimber (Rosie Benton) who feels guilty for being rich and white and works with inner city kids. She is introduced as an “Italian girl.” Joining the reunion is younger brother Spoon – Kent LeVay (Dule Hill), a sweet young man, who has brought his fiancée Taylor (Tracie Thoms), a not at all rich exceptionally bright entomologist working on a post-doc, whose father was a well known scholar, but feels cheated and craves a father and family. She has issues restraining her emotions and tongue in social situations. She is plagued with wanting to fit in and the realization that she’s out of her class. The head of the household Dr. Joe LeVay (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), a neurosurgeon with a wandering eye for the female gender, has a problem with younger son Spoon who has decided to become a writer rather than use his education (he holds a law degree + more) to establish himself in a suitable professional career, and tells him to “man up.” Dr. LeVay is emotionally tough and removed.
Also in the household is young Cheryl (Condola Rashad) pinch hitting for her ailing mother who usually keeps house for the family. She is bright¸ articulate and about to go off to college. The family has known her since birth (which is another part of the story) and she’s always been treated like a family member. Yet, in this new role, she is ordered around, the class distinction definitive as to where and how she fits into the dynamics. It is Taylor who feels her pain, offering to help Cheryl, by doing things for herself and others rather than being served. It is Cheryl around whom the plot makes its pivotal turn. Mrs. LeVay, a college professor, is talked about as though she is momentarily about to appear but never does.
Lots of literary conversations ensue around politics, racism and family events, as insults fly as they jockey for position, allowing for the characters’ role development. Secrets come to life like Flip’s one-nighter with Taylor 6 years prior and more important issues revolving around Daddy’s ultimate mistake. Rashad gives one of the best performances in the somewhat over-written production and there are some great laugh lines throughout. The well-acted play, directed by Kenny Leon (Fences), is more like a TV soap opera, with predictable outcomes.
What is misleading is the fact that the production, at the Cort Theatre, is billed using Alicia Keyes’ name giving an expectation that she is momentarily about to appear on stage. The reality is that she wrote some incidental music here and there, and is one of the lead producers of the play. A misleading advertising concept, for sure.
David Gallo has construced a well designed summer house, showing the various interior rooms and outdoors; just as you’d expect to see on Martha’s Vineyard. Aside from the obvious pitfalls, audiences will enjoy this over-long (2-1/2 hour) show, that can surely be shaved down with some effort.
138 West 48 Street
1 212 239-6200 Open run
Photo: Richard Termine
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