Lydia R. Diamond's 2006 play about race, class and privilege is ideal viewing for audiences in 2015.
Nine years have passed since Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly premiered at Chicago's Congo Square Theatre Company, and it’s been a mere three since it made its Broadway debut. 2015 might seem a little early for a Chicago comeback, except that this play is relevant as hell. Set in Martha’s Vineyard at the ancestral summer home of a wealthy African-American family, the play’s characters directly challenge each other on matters of race as it relates to privilege and class. While Stick Fly’s tropes are pretty old hat—a family gathering, resentments boiling, long-held secrets finally revealed—the play’s point of view is as fresh as ever.
Really, the show makes a fine choice for the Windy City Playhouse’s second production of its inaugural season. Revisiting the piece he helmed in its original production, director Chuck Smith has created a loose-limbed atmosphere that suits both the story and the venue. While the play is decidedly a drama, it is often quite funny, and never truly tragic.
Phillip Edward Van Lear, reprising his role from the Congo Square production, is commanding as paterfamilias Dr. Levay, while Celeste M. Cooper is a jittery bundle of nerves as the etymologist fiancée of his son Kent, played by Tyrone Phillips. Kristen Magee shines as the white girlfriend of Kent’s callow plastic surgeon brother, Flip (Michael Pogue), and Paige Collins brings verve and vulnerability as Cheryl, the family’s black housekeeper’s daughter.
Occasionally the show’s loose vibe can turn into slackness, but the sharp elbows that the characters throw at each other not only land, they stick.
Windy City Playhouse. By Lydia R. Diamond. Directed by Chuck Smith. With Tyrone Phillips, Celeste Cooper, Paige Collins, Michael Pogue, Kristen Magee, Phillip Edward Van Lear. Running time: 2hrs 30mins; one intermission.
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