Upon entering the Generic space for Stick Fly, I was in awe of the set design. A beautiful upscale living and dining room have been exactly replicated onstage, even down to the functional, chrome, French door refrigerator.
The hardwood flooring in the living room is not the same hardwood you see present on an everyday basis in the space, setting it further apart from the audience and reinforcing the affluence of the family and the house. There is even a deck that seems to fade away, plank by plank, from one room to the next. Christina Marie Vigiletta is listed as Scenic Designer, while director Jeanette Rainey is credited with “Kitchen Design.” Whoever is responsible, they certainly deserve a nod of recognition, along with all the builders. It is one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.
The light design was nothing fancy, but I think fancy would be inappropriate. This isn’t a flashy Broadway musical, but a subtle “dramedy,” so less is more. But Derrion La’Zachan Hawkins’ sound design (he is also lighting designer) employed more creativity. Contemporary Top 40 and R&B segued the mood from one scene to the next and kept the audience engaged during the sometimes-too-long scene changes.
As the show begins, the audience is introduced to the members of the LeVay family one by one, but first we meet the daughter of the family’s housekeeper, Cheryl, played by Nyasia Thomas. Thomas’ portrayal of the young working class woman was spot on, from dancing around while doing chores to sparring with the girlfriends of the men she grew up with. She’s clearly one of the family, and we all feel her pain when she is put “back in her place,” as well as her frustration and confusion as she nears her breaking point.
Next we meet Kent LeVay (Michael Singleton) and his fiance, Taylor (Kelle Stewart). Kent, it seems, has been his father’s whipping boy for some time, and Singleton captures Kent’s submissive nature, allowing him to develop a backbone as the story progresses. Taylor has a complex past and a rather unique hobby, making it entirely plausible for her character to be a bit quirky. Sadly, Stewart’s acting choices (or Rainey’s direction, as the case may be) just left me confused. I was never sure if she was angry or joking, passionate or drunk. It seemed as if there may have been some forgotten lines or cues throughout the performance as well, which may have contributed to this impression of Taylor’s character. Hopefully the awkwardness can be ironed out over the remainder of the run.
Then enters the family patriarch, Joseph, played by George T. Davis. Davis is comfortable and confident in this role, and it shows in his performance. His interactions are very natural and aid some of the flow issues mentioned above. Byron Adrian Shorter’s portrayal of Flip is similarly confident and natural, and he knows how to get a laugh. Flip’s character is offered several comedic moments early on and Shorter did not let them pass him by.
When Bree Holcombe enters as Flip’s latest paramour, Kimber, the audience gets even more of the natural, confident, flowing show it has been craving. As Dr. LeVay says later on, Kimber just doesn’t care what people think of her. Kimber’s “Italian” heritage combined with her (educated) opinions on African American culture make that particular trait a necessity and it’s that devil-may-care attitude that Holcombe presents so well.
Stick Fly, is a wonderful piece, but fell flat in this particular production. It’s often hard to pinpoint where exactly the weakness in a show lies. Having not been privy to the process or the backstage details, my opinion from the perspective of the audience is that there just wasn’t sufficient rehearsal time, which can thankfully be fixed. All of the characters could have used more development, but Taylor’s even more so due to her complexity and the size of the part. Much of the action of the other characters is actually a reaction to something Taylor has just done or said. That being the case, those lines or actions have to convey the right tone. Sadly, by opening night, the responses still weren’t quite matching the stimuli. There are some great moments, but for this type of play it’s crucial that those character interactions make sense. However all is not lost, and I retain hope that the rhythm will be found subsequent performances. It’s a very clever script and, with a little more practice, has the potential to be a great show. I think it’s worth a visit to the Generic to find out. In fact, if you have found out, please comment and let the rest of us know!
“Stick Fly” runs thru 9/18. Turs, Fri, Sat 8:00pm, Sun 2:30pm. Tix: $15 Reg, $12 Student/Senior/Military. Click here for tix and info.