Playwrights love to place human beings and their shortcomings beneath the unforgiving gaze of a microscope. In "Stick Fly," Lydia R. Diamond offers a variation on this methodology — the title refers to entomologists who study the movements of flies by gluing them to sticks.
Diamond's specimens don't frequently find themselves put up for observation in the theatrical realm: upper-income African-Americans. The 2007 play, which has received a finely acted, handsome production at Everyman Theatre, centers around family members who arrive at their posh summer home on Martha's Vineyard — the "white side."
Here, the center of gravity is Dr. Joe LeVay, who married well and has two highly educated sons — Flip, a plastic surgeon; and Kent, an aspiring novelist with a law degree. Waiting for their arrival is Cheryl, a black teenager who attends a top high school and is just filling in for her ailing mother as maid.
Two unexpected women generate interest and sparks. Taylor, Kent's fiancee, the "freakishly smart and a little weird" daughter of an eminent African-American sociologist, is not in the same social strata as the LeVays. But that concern is soon overtaken by her resentment of Kimber, Flip's well-off white girlfriend (Flip tries to prepare his family for the surprise by telling everyone she's Italian).
That "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" layer adds some fun to the plot, but the main order of business is a variation on some trusted themes — money can't buy you happiness; skeletons have a way of getting into every family's closets; racism and stereotyping come in many forms.
Although the play makes these points potently, "Stick Fly" does have one flaw. The most explosive revelation to rock the pristine vacation home is made in a manner that doesn't quite ring true; there isn't much of a surprise factor, either.
That's easily overlooked, though, in light of the overall snap of the dialogue and the flair of Everyman's production. Director Vincent Lancisi has the action flowing crisply, using every corner of James Fouchard's spacious, astutely detailed set.
David Emerson Toney gives a vibrant, commanding portrayal of the proud doctor. Kevin McAllister finds effective nuances in the character of talented, but tentative, Kent. Kevin Jiggetts vividly underscores the, well, flip side of Flip.
The juiciest role is Taylor, who arrives at the house lugging the heaviest psychological baggage and the deadliest sarcasm. Erika Rose grabs the opportunity and delivers a fiery, disarmingly natural performance.
Kaytie Morris astutely draws out both the serious and playful nature of Kimber, and Shannon Dorsey does a nimble job as the conflicted Cheryl, who has to tend to "the most self-involved, bull … people" she has ever known. Like a lot of the barbs flying through the play, that one sticks.
If you go
"Stick Fly" runs through April 17 at Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St. Call 410-752-2208 or go to everymantheatre.org.