Think YOUR Family Has Issues? You Haven't Seen 'Stick Fly' on Broadway

Photo of the marquee while waiting in line for doors to open
The first time I learned about playwright Lydia R. Diamond, I was sitting in a small, windowless conference room on the campus of Harvard University.  Sitting next to me was one of my best friends Rachel who was visiting us in Boston during a break from her studies at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  Across the table from us sat her former professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, John Diamond.  Seeing as though I considered myself the third wheel, I sat quietly during most of their conversation as they bantered back in forth about all things academia such as her research in England and his experiences as a member of Harvard’s faculty.

But the most indelible part of their conversation was the palpable pride Professor Diamond displayed while talking about his wife Lydia, her work as a playwright, and the strides she was making in expanding her firmly established reputation from Chicago to Boston.  I made a mental note to look up her work and began following her career from afar, catching news about her local productions and her interviews in local publications and shows.  So when heard earlier this year that her play Stick Fly was Broadway-bound -- being directed by Kenny Leon and produced by Alicia Keys no less—the first thing I did was call Rachel saying: “Dude.  This is huge.”

So last week my husband and I headed down to New York for the first preview performance of Stick Fly’s Broadway production.  Stick Fly delves into a host of topics including race, color, class, privilege, education, sibling rivalries, and of particular interest: interracial relationships.  The play is set on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in the vacation home of the LeVays, an affluent African-American family.  The two LeVay sons Kent (Dulé Hill) and Flip (Mekhi Phifer) arrive for a family vacation weekend -- one with his black, entomologist fiancée Taylor (Tracee Thoms) and the other with his Italian white, European-backpacker turned Peace Corps member turned savior of Black and Latino inner city children girlfriend Kimber (Rosie Benton).  Add to the plot some family dysfunction and well-kept secrets that come to light and you have two hours of jaw-dropping, gasping, and laughing out loud.  And don't be surprised if you hear the person behind you let out an "Oh no s/he didn't!" or an "I KNOW that's right!" before the night is over.

Photo of the set from our seats
Having read the play this summer, I knew that the foundation of such excellent performances by the cast (particularly the character of Cheryl played by Condola Rashad) was Lydia Diamond's writing, particularly her knack for voice and dialogue.  On more than occasion, my husband commented: "These actors are really good at improvising.  I mean, they just made that up that one line on the spot right? That wasn't in the script was it?"  And on more than one occasion I'd reply, "Um, honey, it's in the script.  Lydia Diamond wrote that."

I have no reservations giving this play two, enthusiastic thumbs up.  If there is any play that would leave you challenging assumptions, Stick Fly would be it.

The cast of Stick Fly at curtain call: Rosie Benton, Mekhi Phifer, Dulé  Hill, Tracee Thoms, Condola Rashad and Ruben Santiago-Hudson

10 comments:

  1. I have heard so many great things regarding this play. Hoping to get a chance to see it !

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  2. @ichoose
    Everything you've heard is TRUE! I hope you get a chance to see it too. If you do, you'll have to let me know what you think.

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  3. Thanks for the review! What a terrific cast, too. I'll have to see if I can get up to see it.

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  4. @Rachel
    You're welcome! Definitely worth the trip (even if it means getting on a Fung Wah bus, lol)

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  5. So excited to this play. I too have read the play, and although i have reservations about the cast, I'm looking forward to seeing the performance before I confirm anything. THis review definitely makes me more anxious to see it.

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  6. Neat!

    I'll have to order her plays for work. Ah the joys of collection development....

    Thanks for the recommendation!

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  7. @Fri
    Yes, I'd definitely give it a chance!

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