THE BASICS: This new domestic drama by Lydia R. Diamond recently completed a successful NYC run. Paulette D. Harris snatched it up immediately for the Paul Robeson Theatre*, where it is now playing weekends through March 3rd. The show, directed by Willie W. Judson Jr., runs about 2 hours and 40 minutes with its single intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Oak Bluffs colony on Martha's Vineyard, present day. The well-heeled LeVay family is congregating. Both grown sons have new girlfriends to present. One of the young ladies is white. Everyone has issues, and the various parties set one another off in interesting ways. A couple of sizable secrets surface during the course of the tumultuous weekend.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: Hugh Davis is a standout as Dr Joe LeVay, the paterfamilias. A renowned neurosurgeon, he sets almost impossibly high standards, and engenders little love. Stern, and world-wise, he is ultimately rendered all but mute when a wrenching secret from his past is revealed. Ashley Dolson also makes a strong impression as son Kent's girlfriend, Taylor, an Angry Young Black Woman whose famous father has rejected her, and who travels the world with a huge chip on her shoulder. An entymologist, the play's curious name derives from her explanation of how fast-moving flies are studied. I also enjoyed Elexa Kopty as son Flip's white girlfriend, Kimber, a progressive, well intentioned young lady with more savvy about people and relationships than those around her at first realize. Brandon Williamson and Marcus Thompson Jr. are OK as siblings Flip and Kent, but neither one makes a big impression, and they are not as clearly differentiated as I would have liked. In the role of Cheryl, the bright, emotionally troubled, high-school-aged daughter of the family's long time domestic, Candace Whitfield is not well cast, but gives it her best shot.
The website for the recent NYC production of STICK FLY contains a video which stresses the universal qualities of the play. To my mind, however, STICK FLY is best when Playwright Diamond deals with matters of race, dishing out insights not often given to theatergoers. Class distinctions in the black community also come to the fore, and these things give this otherwise fairly pedestrian domestic drama both individuality and power. The play does tend to ramble on after a while, and the ending doesn't have much punch. Tighter direction from Mr. Judson would have helped. The closer this play clocks toward two hours, the better it will be. Acoustics continue to be a problem at the Paul Robeson Theatre. Soft, quick "natural" responses invariably get lost; the whole cast needs to pay strict attention to diction.
In summary, here's a new, somewhat different and occasionally powerful drama, from a fresh young voice in the Black Theater, being given a very decent WNY premiere by the dedicated folks at the Paul Robeson. It's not perfect, certainly, not highly polished, but well worth your time!
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who's happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don't go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb--a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you'd be a fool to miss it!
*The 130-seat physical theater is housed inside of the African American Cultural Center at 350 Masten Avenue.