“Stick Fly” which is presented and produced by Alicia Keys makes it’s Broadway debut after having it’s world premiere in Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company in 2006. The play went on to play in D.C and win awards in Los Angeles and New England for best direction, playwright, ensemble and new work. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond has written a superbly relevant and fresh play about two African American brothers who both come home to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend to introduce their respective new girlfriends into the LeVay family. From the get-go Kent (aka Spoon), played by Dule Hill returns to the family vacation house first with Taylor (Tracie Thoms – Rent) who can’t believe how grand the house is which even includes a guest house. With eyes wide open, Taylor takes it all in including all of the original African America art on the walls as she tells Spoon jokingly, that she thought she was with him because she loved his personality, but now she might have to stick with him for his money. Cheryl (Condola Rashad) is already present in the house preparing the home for the arrival of the family. The daughter of the family’s housekeeper who grew up with the LeVay’s since she was a little girl, Cheryl holds a torch for eldest brother Flip and is holding a secret that her mother reveals during her time in Martha’s Vineyard. Joe LeVay (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) is the patriarch of the family and arrives solo sans his wife. Apparently she is on her way…. Flip (Mekhi Phifer) is the eldest brother who arrives next with Kimber (Rosie Benton). Flip has already prepared his brother and Dad that Kimber isn’t black. With a joke that gets recycled up to three times yet never loses it’s wit, whenever anyone mentions that they heard his new girlfriend is white, Flip immediately fires back that she’s Italian.
As the family unite and the girlfriends get acquainted we begin to see a ground work being laid that this weekend’s getaway island visit is going to experience some major eruptions that have been bubbling under for each of our characters as well as the family unit. With layers of class, race and the family upbringing and dynamic, Diamond gives her actors a plethora of sharp and witty dialogue that is intelligent yet shadows each character’s internal demons that they are keeping under wraps. With references to author/feminist Bell Hooks and character discussions that involve talks of race and class, but always laced with personal stories related to the family dynamic, Diamond has created a fish bowl for examining her characters which refers to the title of the play. The character of Taylor who is an Entomologist who’s job it is to catch insects, particularly the fly, places some honey on a popsicle stick and adheres the fly to the tip so she can examine it’s wing behavior when confronted with stimuli.
With a cast that understands timing, innuendo, humor and the intricate ability to escalate a discussion to new heights, “Stick Fly” is easily one of the best plays to hit Broadway recently that will resonate with a multitude of diverse audiences. Often it’s easy to pick out actors that shine in a production, but “Stick Fly” allows each actor to explore their character’s back story and bring a multitude of layers to their role. As a whole the entire ensemble rise to the occasion making every moment on the stage a pleasure to watch while captivating it’s audience. Director Kenny Leon does a fantastic job directing his ensemble utilizing David Gallo’s beautiful and functional tiered set design. Often conversations between two characters occur at the same time in separate rooms on the same stage that effectively plays like a live film. Reggie Ray (Costume Design) outfits his characters with vibrant colors that suit each cast member’s personal back story. But, it’s Alicia Keys who not only has her name associated with the project, but fuses each scene, and in between scenes, with original music that further adds to this dynamic play.