A witty and acerbic view of family dynamics and expectations

Latimore, Gerard, Bakari, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Latimore, Gerard, Bakari, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

“Stick Fly,’ Lydia R. Diamond’s intelligent dramedy now at Writers Theatre, has so many angles and thought-provoking lines that audiences are likely not to notice it runs somewhat more than two and a half hours (with an intermission).

Early on there is the realization that “wasps” don’t have a patent on upper-middle class expectations regarding their progeny’s careers or mates. The story presents the wealthy, highly educated African American LeVay family as they settle in for a relaxing weekend at their second home, a well-appointed “cottage” on Martha’s Vineyard.

Dad, Dr. Joseph LeVay, played by veteran actor David Anderson (Writers, Court Theatre, Indiana Repertory, Guthrie), is proud of Flip, his son the doctor.

Flip, a plastic surgeon well portrayed by DiMonte Henning (Milwaukee Repertory and Producing Artistic Director Lights! Camera! Soul!, a performing arts organization), brings his girlfriend, Kimber (Kayla Raelle Holder, Victory Gardens, First Floor Theater) to meet his parents.

Before Kimber arrives, Flip talks a bit about her. “So she’s white,” says the family. “No, she’s Italian,” Flip answers.

By the middle of the first act, audiences will realize and begin to wonder why Mother has not traveled to the Vineyard with Dad.

Flip’s brother Kent, perfectly portrayed by Eric Gerard (Red Tape Theatre, TimeLine, Windy City Playhouse) has tried different majors and careers but to Dad’s displeasure has become a writer and is working on a book.

Latimore, Anderson, Holder, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Latimore, Anderson, Holder, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

His girlfriend is Taylor, an entomologist with a famous father who abandoned her and her mother early on and has a second, well-heeled family whom she resents. Taylor, precisely interpreted by Jennifer Latimore (Writers, Goodman Steppenwolf) has lots of issues with Kimber’s ideas of racial equality and with Flip’s ideas of promiscuity.

Add to the mix, there is Cheryl, a bright teenager filling in for her ill mother who usually handles the food, guests and cleanup at the Vineyard home.

Played  with flair by Ayanna Bria Bakari (Goodman, TimeLine), Cheryl starts the play with spirited dance movements as she sweeps the protective sheets off the furniture before everyone arrives. She doesn’t want help from anyone including Taylor who keeps trying to pitch in.

By the second act, audiences will realize there is more going on beneath the surface. There are family secrets that won’t be revealed here.

Directed by Ron OJ Parson (WT’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, East Texas Hot links), the play moves rapidly through witty observations, acrid arguments and family dynamics influenced by culture and class.

“Stick Fly” is at Sticik Fly at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through March 15, 2020. Running time: about 2 hours, 35 minutes. For tickets and more information call (847) 242-6000 or visit Writers Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

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