“Stick Fly,” a comedy with moments of serious contemplation, presented by Alicia Keys, is a theatrical offering by playwright Lydia R. Diamond, starring Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Mekki Phifer, Dule Hill, Tracie Thoms, Condola Rashad and Rosie Benton.
The play is housed at the Cort Theatre, located at 138 West 48th Street in Manhattan. David Gallo’s set immediately transports the audience to a rose strewn seaside vineyard haven.
“Stick Fly” derives its name from the fact Taylor (Tracie Thoms), an entomologist, studies insects, especially flies. She observes the behavior of flies by gluing them to a Popsicle stick, so she can observe their motor skills and wing movements as the fly struggles to get free. Not unlike the characters in the play, who despite appearances are not free to be who they truly are or live the life they crave, so restricted are they by expected codes of behavior.
All is not as it appears with Taylor, who underneath the pretense is the rather disturbed and angry daughter of a well-known author, whom everyone believes lives a life of privilege, yet really lives on the sidelines of her famous father’s life. Taylor has a secret in her past that finds her resentful of Flip’s white girlfriend Kimber (Rosie Benton), whose self-assuredness aggravates Taylor and heightens her feelings of rejection, insecurity and helplessness.
Although there are six visible cast members, there are two others that are brought into the play by reference; Cheryl’s mother via phone and the family matriarch via mention. Cordola Rashad plays a very believable role as the maid, Cheryl, who while filling in for her sick mother over the weekend, actually holds a long-time secret of her own.
It was appealing to see well-off African Americans in “Stick Fly,” rather than the standard depiction of African Americans as slaves or uneducated, poor, struggling, deprived people. Set in Martha’s Vineyard, we find two brothers Kent (a.k.a. Spoon) played by Dule Hill and Mekki Phifer in the role of Harold, also known as Flip, traveling to their family country home, unaware they had picked the same weekend to reunite with and introduce their respective girlfriends played by Rosie Benton (Kimber) and Taylor to their parents. Ruben Santiago-Hudson as the family patriarch Joe Levay and Cheryl (Condola Rashad) make up the remaining cast of six.
Through the attitude of Joe Levay, the audience is allowed a glimpse into the Black bourgeoisie and its mindset regarding wealth, color, racial views, Martha’s Vineyard crowd, education, debutante cotillions, and Jack & Jill clubs. This sense of privilege oft-times bred a culture of snobbishness and class distinction, resulting in strict codifiers limiting entrance into their class system. This arrogance prevents Levay from admitting his culpability to and acknowledgment of some of his family members.
If catfights, secrets, sibling rivalries, conflicts, romance, African American family crisis and music by Alicia Keys float your boat, you will find “Stick Fly” directed by Kenny Leon, thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the go see.