Stick Fly by Lydia R. Diamond
This year, IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance produced a four-play series under the name Amplified introducing plays by African-Americans. You may see my reviews of the fall series and the spring production of the third of these plays, Adored You, by Rachel Lynett at WFIU.ORG/ARTS.
This past weekend, the last of these plays, Stick Fly was available via Zoom. Directed by Laraldo Anzaldua, Stick Fly was written by Lydia R. Diamond and was based on a novel by Toni Morrison. The play was first produced in 2008.
The play takes place during summer vacation in the LeVay family home on Martha’s Vineyard. Younger son Kent, played by Rickard Saint-Victor, is visiting for the weekend with his fiancée Taylor, an entomologist, played by Ebony Edwards. Older son Flip has brought his fiancée, Kimber, Leah Mueller, as well. That weekend, Cheryl, played by Tiana Williams, is filling in as the LeVay housekeeper. Dr. Joseph LeVay, Ansley Valentine, is the family patriarch.
With the exception of Rickard Saint-Victor, an IU Theatre 2017 alumna, and Ansley Valentine, a faculty member, the members of the cast are I U students. The characters are black, except for Flip’s fiancée, Kimber who is white.
Tensions in Stick Fly abound.
Taylor, the fiancée of younger son Kent, a many degree’d first-time published novelist, is championing him against his critical father, Dr. Joe. Taylor doesn’t know that her weekend arrival was a surprise. She is impressed with the house, especially its paintings, and she encourages Kent to stop acting like a thirteen-year-old around his father.. She’s uncomfortable in the elegant LeVay home; with the newly insecure Kent.
Older brother Flip is a doctor, like his father. However, while the father is a neurosurgeon, an egotist, Flip the plastic surgeon, cares about others. Flip’s fiancée Kimber is using her Ph.D. to create programs to help inner city children. She feels at home with Flip’s family.
The family housekeeper is ill and her daughter Cheryl, a high school senior is subbing for her mother. She’s familiar with the family, relatively cheerful, and quite comfortable around them. Dr. Joe seems a bit harsh with Cheryl; the sons Flip and Kent, treat her as if she were a paid servant. And the two fiancés, Taylor and Kimber interfere with Cheryl’s duties, treating her as a helpful guest. Cheryl resists. She’s getting frequent calls from her convalescing-mother, that encourage her to ask Dr. Joe something.
During the play, Kent’s fiancé, the uncomfortable Taylor, belittles Kimber’s work with inner city programs. It’s a fairly brutal attack that leaves Kent trying in vain to protect his fiancée. His older brother Flip is on the side lines. Taylor, Kent’s fiancé, brings up a lot of undergraduate racist baggage and drops it all on Kimber. Kimber wisely remains silent. Later Taylor will apologize and the two--in a bit of an anticlimax-- go shopping together.
But the history of Taylor is still very much manifest. Dr. Joe is playing the pater familias. He’s retelling stories that he’s told for years. He’s recalling fishing trips that he and the boys took, suggesting that they play games. He’s alternately harsh and attentive to Cheryl and he still refuses to talk with his t wife on the phone.
Now, if this play were going to continue on into the week, I wouldn’t do this, however.
Cheryl asks Dr. Joe who her father is and he confesses that he is her father. This is not a surprise to his sons.
A proud Kent gives his father the galleys of his novel.
Dr. Joe comments that Kimber will be the rock that Flip must hold onto, and there seems to be some truth in that.
Plans are made for departure back to Boston and New York City; for the divvying up of tasks for closing the house, for the whole family--including Cheryl, perhaps minus the mother--to get together on Martha’s Vineyard next year.
And the title, Stick Fly…well entomologist Taylor has trapped a fly in honey and Cheryl swats it!
I’m George Walker