By Lydia Diamond. Dir. Chuck Smith. With ensemble cast. Congo Square Theatre Company.
After Taylor, a brainy entomologist, gets engaged to Spoon, a sensitive novelist, Spoon introduces her to his family at their summer place in Martha’s Vineyard. Meanwhile, Spoon’s older brother, Flip, a skin-deep plastic surgeon, brings home his own girlfriend, Kimber, the play’s only white character. Two very different brothers are with two very different women.
Stick Fly is also the story of two different playwrights. There’s the Diamond with the keen ear, who deftly handles the ever-shifting terrain of familial and romantic relationships. Easeful direction and finely tuned performances serve this Diamond well. Ann Joseph’s Taylor convincingly uses her sharp intellect both to cut others and to cover herself. And Phillip Edward Van Lear naturally inhabits the deeply flawed patriarch, Joseph.
Then there’s the Diamond with the almost tinny ear, the one who talks over her characters. On the one hand, the play’s most fascinating scene, in which Taylor lets loose on Kimber and her white privilege, is a believable, bristling confrontation; on the other, we can almost hear the author cracking her knuckles and thinking, This is my turn now. This Diamond could rely less on say-your-piece speeches and more on a well-honed plot. Yet it’s the first Diamond who wins out and whose engrossing play achieves something highly unusual: not the depiction of wealthy African-American characters but the casting of race, which plays a key role in these people’s lives without being the central character.—Novid Parsi