Family gatherings at Martha’s Vineyard are not unusual for American royalty like the Kennedys.
The LeVay clan is different – African-American, for one thing, and professional, and they’ve been weekending at the Vineyard for decades. Patriarch Joseph (Hassan El-Amin) secured access to the house by marrying up.
This weekend Mom is detained (for unknown reasons and for the duration, it turns out), but Joseph’s sons Flip (Matt Orduña) and Kent (Anthony Hawkins Woods) are along to introduce their girlfriends to their neurologist dad.
Together they stir up old hurts and new stresses, exhibit anger and jocularity and love in Lydia R. Diamond’s “Stick Fly,” playing at Mo’olelo Performing Company’s Tenth Avenue Theatre through March 20. Robert Barry Fleming directs.
Flip, like his dad a charmer and ladies’ man, is a plastic surgeon; girlfriend Kimber (Elizabeth M. Kelly) is white (though Flip amusingly insists she is “Italian”) and a professor, bright and a daughter of privilege herself. Flip has done the expected and is reaping the rewards of dad’s favor.
The younger Kent, in his early 30s, spurned dad’s plan for him – a career in law – and has set his sights on a writing career. Kent has brought along the proofs of his first novel to edit, but the tension between him and his father is palpable, the disappointment evident in every interaction.
Kent’s fiancée Taylor (Lorene Chesley) studies insects – house flies in particular – in grad school at Johns Hopkins. (The play’s title derives from a method of describing their flight patterns.)
This weekend the household is run by teenager Cheryl (Diona Reasonover), replacing her ailing mother, the family housekeeper. Cheryl is no intellectual slouch herself – she’s just graduated from a prestigious high school and is pondering college possibilities.
But family is family, no matter the color or economic status, and along with the banter this weekend, LeVay secrets will be revealed, wounds inflicted, even a few punches thrown as family dynamics are bared.
I suppose you could call “Stick Fly” an upper-class sitcom, but what sets it apart from most of that genre is playwright Diamond’s facility for clever, intelligent and engaging dialogue of the Aaron Sorkin variety, aided here by terrific production values including Fleming’s excellent direction.
David F. Weiner’s fine set design also deserves praise, though given the distance between the audience and the kitchen, a microphone in that area would be in order to facilitate comprehension of dialogue.
The acting is fine all around, but Reasonover’s whirlwind Cheryl deserves special mention for her characterization of an übercompetent teen with a chip on her shoulder.
Diamond’s female characters are better drawn than the men, and some may complain that there is no real plot, but the quality of the dialogue and the excellence of this production combine for an intellectually stimulating evening in the theater.
“Stick Fly” plays through March 20 at The 10th Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave.
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.
For tickets, call (619) 342-7395 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.