Directed by Chuck Smith
At the Windy City Playhouse, Chicago
Smart, riveting family drama of an old money New England Black Family
Director Chuck Smith (one of the finest craftsman directing in Chicago) has revised Lydia R. Diamond’s 2006 drama Stick Fly. This revival is a well acted and tightly directed work that has a re-kindled energy respectful to the themes contained. I admired the play in 2006 and I admire it more in the Windy City Playhouses’ production now playing through July 5, 2015.
As I stated in my 2006 review: “Stick Fly is Diamond’s “family parlor play” about a wealthy African-American clan with long roots in New England’s Martha’s Vineyard. Stick Fly is another smart Lydia Diamond play that features Taylor (Celeste M. Cooper) a post-graduate entomologist who is an independent, passionate feminist filled with rage over the hypocrisy shown to educated Black woman. She is the daughter of a well know Black scholar who divorced her mother before she was born thus denying her a part of his family status.”
Taylor meets and falls in love with Kent “Spoon” (Tyrone Phillips) the gentle and loving professional student son of a prominent Old Guard Black New England family. The LeVay family is old money, privileged and snobbishly proud. The patriarch, Joseph (Philip Edward Van Lear revised the role his created in the 2006 production) is a brain surgeon, Flip (the charismatic Michael Pogue), the oldest son, is a womanizer plastic surgeon who had a one-night-stand with Taylor six years earlier. He is dating an “Italian” (white) woman, Kimber (Kristen Magee). Spoon wants to introduce Taylor to the family at their summer residence at Martha’ Vineyard, Massachusetts. The LeVay family has a rich history dating back to the 1600’s. They are “blue-bloods” in the Kennedy and Lodge family traditions. Few white folks (me included) knew of these families yet history is filled with their accomplishments. How American their story is and how little we know about them.
The storyline is the stuff of parlor room melodrama with a twist—it is from a Black point of view. It shows that class, education and wealth doesn’t erase racial stereotypes. Even though the LeVay family is affluent, educated and cultured, they have the vanity, sexual appetites and issues that all families have. But add the class element to the racial one and we have a 21st Century drama.
Lydia Diamond fills the play with an emotional attack on the socially aware white liberals whose condescending attitude is the most vicious and damaging racism. Diamond deals with the subtle low expectations of women of color in American society in this enjoyable show that features two memorable Black woman—Taylor and Cheryl (Paige Collins) both self-made women. Diamond’s theme is that even if the environment has improved, the struggle for Black women continues.
The writing has some stinging balanced comments and the storyline is plausible and the work from the energetic Celeste M. Cooper and Phillip Edward Van Lear is first-rate. Michael Pogue is terrific as is Paige Collins. You’d be hard pressed to see a finer acting ensemble than Chuck Smith’s cast in Stick Fly. Kudos to the creatives at the Windy City Playhouse for remounting this fine play. Stick Fly is a worthy look at the sophisticated wealthy family that happens to be Black. That fact alone gives Stick Fly an underlying power. We don’t often hear that point of view expressed in theatre. Lydia R. Diamond is an amazing talent and terrific storyteller whose works need to be back on Chicago stages. See Stick Fly to experience a unique theatre craftsman at work. Seeing a play at the Windy City Playhouse is a special, warm experience. The ambiance, drinks, the seats, etc. are all first class and their play selection is excellent making a trip to 3014 W. Irving Park a fun event!
At the Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving park, Chicago, IL, call 312-374-3196; Tickets $ $20-$45, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays, alternating at 3:00pm or 5:00pm (consult website), running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through July 5, 2015