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"Stick Fly" by Lydia Diamond at the Cort Theatre
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"Stick Fly" by Lydia Diamond at the Cort Theatre

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Nelle Nugent, Alicia Keys, Samuel Nappi
Reuben Cannon, Jay H. Harris/Catherine Shreiber,
et al.

Dulé Hill, Mekhi Phifer
Tracie Thoms, Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Rosie Benton, Condola Rashad

Stick Fly
(Stick Fly Website)

By Lydia R. Diamond
Directed by Kenny Leon

At the
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street

Scenic Design: David Gallo
Costume Design: Reggie Ray
Lighting Design: Beverly Emmons
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Advertising & Marketing: aka
Website & Social Media: Bay Bridge Productions
Casting: MelCap Casting
Production Stage Manager: Robert Bennett
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Manager: Peter Bogyo

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 12, 2011

The cast of Stick Fly, a new family drama by Lydia Diamond, seems larger than it is, with two offstage mothers, one the mother of the two sons, who have met for a family reunion in Martha’s Vineyard, and one the family housekeeper, whose daughter is substituting to help in her absence. Kent LeVay, called Spoon (Dulé Hill), arrives first, with his fiancée, Taylor (Tracie Thoms). The LeVays and their housekeeper are African American, and a central theme of Ms. Diamond’s work is the socio-economic strata within the multicultural family ensemble and how that strata defines the life experiences, views, and self-concepts for each of the characters. How the actors physically and verbally convey those character qualities makes for a riveting and noteworthy drama. Taylor’s father was a renowned author of African American culture, but her wounds of paternal rejection, stemming from her father’s disappearance and her poverty growing up with a divorced mother, leave enduring bitterness. It’s quite a surprise when she sees the LeVays’ material comfort spread so expansively throughout this vacation home. Taylor studies flying insects (entomology), perhaps a metaphor for the rootlessness of so many in this character ensemble.

Kent has degrees in law, business, and sociology, but he’s settling into writing novels and has some news of his current work. Family praise is hard to harvest. Kent’s brother Flip (Harold), a plastic surgeon, who always looks like he’d rather be on a squash court, had some history with Taylor, himself, that he’d rather not remember, and he, too, is about to introduce a new girlfriend, Kimber (Rosie Benton), a Waspish Italian, who gets her multiculturalism in the classroom and in courses. She, too, has an airy demeanor, refined, classy, and somewhere between obsequious and detached. The fireworks fly indoors, when Kimber and Taylor swap venom, but congenial camaraderie ensues. The daughter of the missing housekeeper, Cheryl (Condola Rashad), early on becomes the most interesting and complex of the characters, as education to Cheryl is not something to squander, and she’s obsessed about making her way up the socioeconomic ladder as efficiently as she can. Another surprise gives her a new found opportunity to do just that. Ms. Rashad can coil like a python, waiting to seize the spotlight, turning from prey to predator in the blink of an eye. She has theatrical courage and clout, an artist on the rise.

The sixth character, the LeVay father, Joe (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), thought he held all the power cards, until more surprises explode with fury. Yet this successful and comfortable neurosurgeon can “fly” above it all, and he, at least on the surface, seems to do so, with nary a twitch or grimace. The two offstage mothers are not present for the flip sides of a situation that involves Joe. Human desire and rejection reside at the core of Ms. Diamond’s oeuvre. David Gallo’s magnificent set, with sturdy stairway, expansive kitchen, leathery living room, and dark wood walls, draws the eye to the essential gestalt of comfort, while the characters exude discomfort. Reggie Ray’s costumes bring out the nuances of poverty and prosperity, and Beverly Emmons’ lighting, along with Peter Fitzgerald’s sound, round out this exemplary experience. Kenny Leon directed for nuanced gesture and gripping dialogue. He maximized the characters’ unique conditions.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at