STICK FLYby Lydia R. Diamond
Directed by Khira Hailey
Stage Manager – Amir Ali
Technical Director – Van Williams
Sound Design – David Lanza
Lighting Design – Nikki Deshea Smith
Set Design – Megan Beddingfield
Costume Design – Bree Moore
Kent – J.R. Bradford
Kimber – Liz Millea
Cheryl – Rachel Poole
Taylor – Kyndal Robertson
Joe Levay – Alonzo Waller
Flip – Brandon White
Reviewed Performance: 6/1/2018
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Stick Fly is a play written by Lydia R. Diamond in 2008 and produced several times in regional theatre had a brief Broadway run. Stick Fly is nothing if not a superbly written play. The dynamics of the Levay family men change during the show as each assumes a position of power in the changing flow of who has the upper hand at the time. To a certain degree, the women of the play, who for the first act just seem to be along for the ride, ebb and flow with this dynamic as well. In the second act the women drive the emotions to and through the men. All in all, a seemingly shallow play becomes very deep and intensely emotionally moving by the end of the two plus hours of stage time.
The play centers around an affluent African-American family as they gather at their generational family house in Martha's Vinyard for a weekend. Both adult sons are bringing their respective fiancees to "meet the family" for the first time. That in and of itself is cause for drama and comedy. I think this play is listed as a comedy/drama but honestly, there was very little outright comedy. A few snickers and a burst or two of laughter but this is far more drama than comedy as any family gathering is apt to be.
First to arrive are Kent, brilliantly played by local actor and O.D. Wyatt alum, J.R Bradford, the younger son who is NOT a doctor or lawyer but a novelist, and his fiancée, Taylor, solidly done by Kyndal Robertson, an entomologist who studies flies. Taylor grew up comfortably but not wealthy so she is instantly awed by the casual wealth on display in the Martha's Vinyard home. The play’s title comes from her explaining how she observes common housefly. I was hoping for some insight to the overall theme through her story but if there is one, it was lost on me.
They are soon joined by Kent’s brother, Flip (Brandon White), a self-centered, cocksure plastic surgeon who is obviously dad's favorite because he has a 'real' job. He makes sure that everybody knows his girlfriend, is melanin-challenged because she is Italian. Yeah, that comes back to bite him later.
When Kimber (Liz Millea) shows up, we realize that she too grew up with privilege so even though she is whitebread through and through, she still fits in with the Levay family easier than does Taylor and that sets Taylor off a bit.
Rachel Poole is the shiny spot on stage with her portrayal of Cheryl, the daughter of the Levay family's longtime servant who is ailing. Treated usually as an honorary family member at these gatherings, she is trying to find her new place as the servant. I recently saw Ms. Poole as Lourdes in 'Luna Gale' and I am so happy to see her in a much larger and more demanding role here. A sophomore at TCU, I am sure we will have the pleasure of seeing her in many more local productions in the future. Remember that one secret I mentioned earlier? When it is revealed, Rachel floods the stage with emotion and pulls the audience right in there with her. Dazzling.
Last one in the fray is Joe, the LeVay patriarch. Alonzo Waller plays the neurosurgeon father who is proud of what he has provided for his boys and very direct when it comes to pointing out their flaws both real and perceived. However, mom is not with him which is strange and Joe gets evasive when the boys start asking where their usually doting mother is. The consistently on-edge Taylor abruptly attacks Kimber during a story about a nervous breakdown which is the first of few confrontations over racism in academia (and out of it) and the delicate matter of class.
As far as the performances on stage, I mentioned that of Poole being outstanding but the rest of the cast were as solid as they could be as well. Alonzo Waller was perfect as the dad who is at that stage of his life where he is full of wisdom and a lot of don'tbotherme attitude. Liz and Brandon played their relationship with enough aloofness that you knew this was going to be a marriage of contentment and sufficiency more than love or passion. The relationship of Kent and Taylor however, should have been more passionate, more "in love" and exciting than it came across. Bradford and Robertson just never conveyed the spark of two people just getting married because they loved each other and that was noticeably missing. The chemistry just wasn't there.
There was one aspect that I found truly enjoyable as far as the execution of the play went. When the stage had to be redressed between scenes to show a passage of time, it wasn't just done by those kids in black you see at many theatres and it wasn't just… done. The actors came out and remained in character as they cleaned and rearranged their space as 'stage business' instead of 'set dressing' to prepare for the next scene. Made the transitions smooth as silk and pleasantly un-noticed
There is a LOT to absorb in this play and Khira Hailey does a beautiful job in keeping the pace interesting and bringing the audience on an emotional journey. This is not a black play nor even a play about a black family. It is universal in its action and story. It is a well-written examination of family dynamics and what happens when they are disrupted. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and you will too.
Thu Evening Curtain 7:30
Fri/Sat Evening Curtain 8:00
Sat/Sun Matinee 3:00
Tickets $26 - $30
To purchase tickets, visit jubileetheatre.org or call the Box Office M-F 12-5p @ 817-338-4411. The Box Office is open one hour prior to performances.