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BWW Review: Intiman's Seething STICK FLY Feels Clunky

Chantal DeGroat and G. Valmont Thomas in
Intiman Theatre's production of Stick Fly
Photo credit: Inye Wokoma

One of the reasons we love a good family drama is it appeals to that voyeur in us all. We love to peek inside someone else's world and see how it compares to our own. But as chaotic and messy as those lives may be they still speak more eloquently and at just the right moments than we could, being scripted and all. And while peeking in on the secrets and lies of the LeVay family in Lydia R. Diamond's "Sticky Fly", now playing as part of the Intiman Theatre Festival, may be powerful and evocative it also lacked some of that ordered chaos as much of the pacing of the play and the timing of it all felt clunky and unfocused.

It's a tumultuous weekend at the beach as the two LeVay brothers, Flip and Kent (Reginald Andre Jackson and Tyler Trerise), are each bringing their girlfriends home to meet the family. The younger Kent hopes they'll like his girlfriend Taylor (Chantal DeGroat) enough to finally have done something right in the eyes of his Father (G. Valmont Thomas) and the older favorite son Flip hopes Mom and Dad will be OK with the fact that his girlfriend Kimber (Bhama Roget) is white. But when Dad shows up without Mom and won't talk about why and their long time housekeeper Miss Ellie can't come due to illness and sends her 18 year old daughter Cheryl (Amara Granderson) along in her place tensions build to a boil until all the secrets come out.

As you might expect from the setup, Diamond's play deals a lot with race and class issues as this highly educated and successful African American family confronts a society that does not expect them to succeed. But the even more powerful aspect of the issues comes from the fact that those expectations and societal pressures also come from within their own family. The message here is strong but the production isn't. Director Justin Emeka seems to flounder with the pace of the show as dialog from different conversations in different rooms overlap. That kind of overlap can work if done gracefully and thoughtfully but here much of one conversation is trampled by another, which isn't helped by the cavernous qualities of the space. Furthermore rather than attempt to get on with the story from scene to scene he seems to be reveling in the scene changes inserting odd music/dance breaks from the characters. These interludes go on way too long, have very little to do with the characters or the story and break the flow of the show. What might have been a clever way to cover a set change just got out of hand and is really unnecessary as there's not that much set to change.

The ensemble does a fine job although some struggle with being heard completely in that cavernous space. Thomas manages a very powerful but very flawed Father figure and as the secrets come out you can practically see the chinks in his armor widen amidst all his confidence and bravado. Jackson and Trerise wonderfully embody the relationship of polar opposite brothers each vying for approval and Trerise's arc at the end of the show is a thing of beauty. DeGroat and Roget also take on the girlfriend roles with aplomb showing off how alike these two seeming polar opposites are. And Granderson manages some amazingly powerful moments as her own world falls apart.

It's truly an interesting look into these hot button issues I just would have liked the pace to have been smoother and so with my three letter rating system I give Intiman's "Stick Fly" a clunky MEH+. Here's hoping they're able to settle into the flow a little more.

"Stick Fly" from the Intiman Theatre Festival performs at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute through June 19th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.intiman.org.


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From This Author Jay Irwin