One of the most exciting things that a playwright can do is to show you an unfamiliar way of life. A play that succeeds in doing so can be forgiven any number of theatrical sins. "Stick Fly," in which Lydia R. Diamond puts America's black upper class onstage, fills the bill on all counts. Yes, it's a mess, but a fascinating one, well directed by Kenny Leon and performed with total persuasiveness by his ensemble cast, and the best parts are so good that you'll be glad to forgive Ms. Diamond when she goes wrong.
STICK FLY Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Stick Fly on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Stick Fly including the New York Times and More...
Diamond has something special here and her Broadway debut, which takes its name from the way entomologists observe fast-flying flies, is a refreshing chance to scrutinize an elite slice of America one rarely sees on stage and find out that their life also stinks enough to attract flies.
this overstuffed but lively comedy-drama, which opened on Thursday night at the Cort Theater, also signifies a departure for Broadway in its depiction of generational conflict and sexuAl Sparks among a well-to-do contemporary African-American family and friends. Pointed discussions of race and class erupt as often as testy personality clashes...The discovery of the evening is the quietly captivating Ms. Rashad.
As over-written as it is, Diamond’s script has enough amusing lines and perceptive observations -- particularly about the behavior men learn or reject from their fathers -- to keep it engaging. But her characters don’t exactly draw you in, and neither these actors nor the staging help.
Diamond is accustomed to writing in a far more experimental, more formally frisky vein, but she displays an abiding affection for and proficiency in the art of verbal fencing. Too often, though, Taylor, Kimber, and the LeVay men (the play’s thinnest characters) seem to be floating in a fine mist of wit and writerly flash, while the play itself lapses into the old tricks of cheap melodrama.
The best thing about “Stick Fly” is its shameless reliance on soap-opera theatrics. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond multiplies heated arguments about race, class and gender, but the comedy that opened last night is really an old-fashioned, corny melodrama.
The production directed by Kenny Leon is fast-paced with a dynamite beachhouse set. The actors handle Diamond's snappy dialogue with ease. Ruben Santiago-Hudson finds ample nuance as the callously dominating father. But it's Condola Rashad in her Broadway debut as the put-upon housekeeper's daughter who stands out. Moment to moment she delivers one of the freshest and most honest portrayals of the year. To the show's credit, it's never dull, but amid all the commotion and numerous revelations over two and a half hours, the play doesn't seem to go anywhere. “Stick Fly” is itself stuck in melodrama.
In the end, Stick Fly sometimes seems as insecure as some of its characters about its place in the world. It hints at a family drama worthy of August Wilson or Lorraine Hansberry, with flashes of insight into the contemporary African American experience. But too often it settles for raised voices and shocking twists — and the gasps and clucks that they'll elicit from the audience. There's a skill to crafting such entertainments, to be sure, but Diamond has the potential to write plays that do much, much more.
It's a critic's job to figure out what the artists wanted to do and then analyze whether or not they succeeded and why. If Diamond's goal was a lively potboiler that would bring serious ideas to the masses, then mission pretty much accomplished.
Diamond has a knack for setting up juicy situations without always knowing how to resolve them. Director Kenny Leon ought to have trimmed a half hour from the play and tightened its focus...Nevertheless, “Stick Fly” is one of my favorite plays of the year. Keep your eyes on Rashad, radiant in the harrowing “Ruined” and a further revelation here.
Diamond shows a flair for everyday speech as delivered by this bunch of brainiacs. But as she juggles complicated issues of race, class and the devastation of absentee fathers, her play rocks schizophrenically between substantive drama and a quippy “Cosby” clone. At 2-3/4 hours, “Stick Fly” could benefit from some tightening. Ditto the ensemble directed by Kenny Leon.
Like a chef too fond of her ingredients and bored with the recipe, Diamond overstuffs and undercooks this rich stew of identity politics and parent-child resentments. As a result, the characters (played with grace and gusto by an appealing ensemble) give us plenty of high-attitude verbiage, but too few glimpses into their inner lives. Still, Diamond spins out lively dialogue by the yard, and it’s often fun to wriggle in her web.
Kenny Leon directs six fine actors -- including the superb Condola Rashad as the quietly seething maid's daughter with ambitions, Dulé Hill as the son who'd rather be a novelist than a lawyer, Mekhi Phifer as his brother the womanizing plastic surgeon and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as the patriarch....There's a tight, bright, nasty 90-minute play lurking in this sprawling 2¾-hour work, named after an etymological practice of gluing fast-moving flies on sticks to be magnified. Stuck under a less-than-perfect microscope, they still move.
Something is very wrong when the transitional music played between scenes is treated as the most important part of a play...In spite of a few sincere performances, "Stick Fly" is utterly derivative of better-known family dramas and dependent on shock value. It also doesn't help that the scene changes are painfully slowed down in order to showcase Keys' original music.