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Stick Fly –Drama Embraces Myriad Of Family Issues

Stick Fly, Lydia R. Diamond’s uber-drama of a wealthy black family vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, embraces a myriad of issues—racism, sibling rivalry, familial betrayal, parental expectations and personal identity.  

Here we have doctors, writers, and scientists just trying to be themselves but soon enough the ominous and ever-present specter of race distinction is dealt with quite forcefully. Midway through the evening’s proceedings the rhetorical question is asked (I forgot by whom), will it ever end?  When will we be just Americans?  

The Joseph Stern-produced play at the Matrix Theatre (7656 Melrose Ave.) through May 31, unsurprisingly supplies no easy answers. Clearly, there aren’t any.  But we see the toxic affect of latent and pernicious discrimination on these folk who have succeeded well, by any standard, in their chosen professions.  But that success has not provided the buffer against racism one would expect.

The evening comes into focus when we realize it is “family” that is the core of life itself, and where the power and essence to survive exists. Not that all past hurts can easily be forgotten or forgiven, but the play seems to ask, I believe, where would we be without family at all?    

This is the summer home of Dr. Joseph LeVay (a formidable John Wesley), a strong-willed martinet, a successful neurosurgeon who disapproves of his younger son Kent’s (a severely determined Chris Butler) writing ambitions. Kent has arrived with his fiancée Taylor (Michole Briana White in a take-no-prisoners performance).

The catalyst for the race conflict is supplied when older son Flip (the excellent Terrell Tilford) brings home his white girlfriend Kimber (an appropriately intense Avery Clyde) to meet the family. He euphemistically warns them she is Italian.

We find out later she is a WASP. One evening, two couples are just sitting around playing Scrabble, but unavoidably slip into a heated discussion of subject #1 when Kimber tells of working in an inner-city school to demonstrate her non-racist credentials.

Taylor erupts into a frenzy of invective. That’s not enough, she says. You’re still a pampered white lady who will never face the societal hate we face. Her anger subsides quickly, as we soon deal with more mundane matters.

The family’s long time maid has sent her daughter Cheryl (the irresistibly dynamic Tinashe Kajese) to fill in.  Cheryl is having a serious identity problem. She wants to do her job, resents being helped.  Wants to be part of the family, but feels like a maid.  In a series of painful revelations, however, we discover that Dr. LeVay is actually Cheryl’s father.

No one, especially Flip, takes this news well. Another piece of news devastates Kent when he finds that Taylor once had a brief affair with brother Flip. Despite the endless conflicts, eventually Kent’s anger with brother Flip subsides.

We also find that Dr. LeVay did the moral thing and supported Cheryl these 18 years and got her into a good school as well. And Taylor realizes Kimber does not represent the enemy. (They bond.  Woman do that.) Occasionally a scene will display a tendency to ramble.  Some judicious editing would be appropriate.  Nevertheless Stick Fly, directed by Shirley Jo Finney, manages to cover quite a bit of distance, aided by extraordinary acting by the entire ensemble. 

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