Family drama, classism, racism, and humor combined in St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Bruce Davis Theatre last week during the production of “Stick Fly,” a 2006 play written by Lydia R. Diamond. The SMCM Theatre, Film and Media Studies Department (TFMS) premiered the show on Wednesday, April 17, and the cast performed through Sunday, April 21. Directed by Howard University Professor and playwright Denise J. Hart, the performance was the culmination of weeks of work by the six talented cast members and the crew.
Before the play begins, the audience is shown a beautiful set designed by Leah Mazur to look like the inside of an upper-class home. From the wicker basket filled with extra pillows under a living room stand to a fridge used throughout the play, the set acts and feels like a living space, allowing the audience to see into the private lives of the characters. From the moment the first character steps on stage in the form of the maid’s daughter Cheryl, played by Jada Johnson, the characters claim this space as their own.
The narrative begins with a stereotypical story of boy-brings-girl home. However, the dynamic of the characters are neither stereotypical or dull. The first couple introduced is Kent, played by Daekwan Jacobs and his fiancee Taylor, played by Reva Taylor. Their story presents as a typical homecoming at first, but is quickly complicated by Taylor’s unfamiliarity with the upper-crust lifestyle of Kent’s family. This discomfort boils to the top in her interaction with Cheryl, who is working as the maid in her mother’s place, and whose role as such Taylor struggles to except. Taylor’s complications over her class and her role within the household are only a few of the struggles which provide the at times tense and humorous narrative.
The introduction of the rest of the cast, plastic surgeon Flip played by Michael Miller, his white (sorry, “She’s Italian”) girlfriend Kimber played by Lily Tender, and the patriarch of the LeVay family played by Jeremiah Pearl, allows for the dramatic development of the characters and their relationships.
Drama and humor is found in every aspect of the play. From Taylor’s past deviance with future brother-in-law Flip to Cheryl’s realization that her long-time boss is her father, unexpected events fill the play with a sometimes humorous touch.
The undeniable humor of the show, however, does not prevent it from dealing with some very serious topics. As director Hart explains, “Stick Fly explored the class upward mobility within the black community and also the impact of holding family secrets.” Identity and place take a central role in the play in almost every aspect. Almost every character struggles with a sense of belonging. Kimber’s right to speak about race as a white female, Taylor’s degree or lack of privilege as the child from a previous marriage of a famous scholarly father, and Kent’s right to become an author in a family of doctors all play out on the stage. It is a fraught story, neatly balanced by humor, and brought to life by the talented cast, crew, set designers and make-up artists. The overall result is a wonderful and humorous story held together with an engaging narrative that challenges audiences to think about their perceptions of race and class.