A Stick Fly is one of those unfortunate insects that, in order to be photographed and examined properly must be glued to a stick. In that position, we can see its extraordinary physical construction and study its complicated nervous system.
After that we toss it in the garbage.
I'm not clear exactly, which of the many characters on this stage at the Cort Theatre is the Stick Fly: perhaps all of them. Everyone here is under a microscope. Each is watching and being watched. Each is covert. Each is a risk taker. Each is a minority of one as well as being part of a larger racial and sexual minority.
Lydia Diamond has gathered them all in this house on Martha's Vineyard, into which the entire audience would like to move, and set the burner to simmer. One by one the characters sneak into the kitchen and mess with the flame.
Kent LeVay, a struggling author, (Dulé Hill) is bringing his fiancée Taylor, a research scientist, (Tracie Thoms) to the family manse for the weekend. It is time to meet the folks. His brother, Flip - a plastic surgeon (Mekhi Phifer) is also coming home with a woman who is not a fiancée but would like to be. Kimber, a social worker, (Rosie Benton) is, however, white and that is enough to set this party on its ear. Also in residence is the patriarch, Joe - a neurosurgeon - (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) and the daughter of the regular maid (Condola Rashad). Absent are the two matriarchs - Mrs. LeVay and Miss Ellie - but very present are their respective secrets.
Everybody has them in this family, and they are all playing their cards close to their vests. As created by Ms. Diamond these are complicated characters who are each a little desperate and each is very, very smart. The after dinner discussions flow from Weber to Bell Hooks to life in the "inner city" to the race relations playing out in present time, to what it is that makes family members want to kill one another slowly.
There are a lot of layers to deal with here and Diamond weaves them with a steady hand. We know what each person wants and we know the stakes, that is all except Kent, who is the most vague and undeveloped person in the bunch. His character doesn't give Mr. Hill much latitude, and under Kenny Leon's direction he does not shine. In general the direction seems vague, and it is the actors who have secured a hold on one another. The overlapping dialogue gets away from them fairly often and Ms. Rashad is unintelligible one too many times. This is unfortunate, because, not only is she a fine actor but her character is critical in the saga of the LeVay family.
This is a great evening of theatre that delves not only into family but racial and sexual politics as well. This is not another story about white people struggling, thank God. It is a story about secrets, and family. It is a story about shame and devotion. It is a story about judgment and hope. It is a story about all of us.
Well done, Ms. Diamond. Come back soon.
"A juicy family drama."
Charles Isherwood for NY Times
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
"An old-fashioned, corny melodrama."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Penchant for overripe secrets, melodramatic revelations, and lazy plotting."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"Can be appreciated for a number of thought-provoking and amusing moments."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
Roma Torres for NY1
"Do not expect a terribly profound or exciting play but rather a mildly enjoyable."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"A fair share of laughter and some enjoyable performances but not much in the way of distinction."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...
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