Forget the title, “Stick Fly”. This is of minor importance, tied to a character’s scientific fascination with insects.
And don’t get obsessed with the fact that the Omaha Community Playhouse features an affluent black family with two sons bringing home young wives, one black and one white. As race plays a role, another source of social distancing ends up becoming the core of the LeVay family’s dysfunction.
Not race, but class, the economic divide between patriarch Joe LeVay (D. Kevin Williams), his sons, and their young maid Cheryl (Nina Washington) gives Lydia Diamond’s drama its greatest impact.
Cheryl replaces her sick mother, fetches libations, and cleans up after Dr. LeVay and his sons. And there’s a family mystery or two hanging over their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard.
Of course, some racial tensions rise between the young women meeting the men’s family for the first time. Olivia Howard, as Spoon’s (DJ Tyree) fiancé Taylor, unleashes a profane tirade on Kara Davidson, Flip’s (Brandon Williams) white girlfriend. But it’s just good old family conflict when Flip hits Spoon with one of the most believable punches I’ve ever seen. I wanted to see a replay in slow motion.
As all of these relationships play out, with the two brothers and their wives sorting out their attitudes toward doctor and maid, the playwright sets the stage for some of the funniest moments in post-dysfunction dialogue.
After all the fireworks that exploded when she first met the family, Kara Davidson nails her starting line, sincerely thanking Dr. LeVay “for your hospitality.” A little hospitality!
A few late exchanges were enough to at least briefly remind the two all-time great dysfunctional families, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee. and “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts.
There are all sorts of reasons to enjoy “Stick Fly,” including Jim Othuse’s stage design of a scale interior of the family cabin scene on the island. Director DeMone Seraphim brought a host of theater credits to his debut work for the Playhouse, and he assembled a strong cast, ranging from veteran actor D. Kevin Williams to newcomer Kara Davidson. Don’t overlook her bio sketch which identifies her as a “physical theater artistpuppeteer” who “does aerialcircus acts (trapeze, silk, lyre)”.
We’ve seen strong evidence of the talents of DJ Tyree and Brandon William, but their roles here have added new dimensions to our appreciation. And Nina Washington deserves special credit for shedding light on the fate of maid Cheryl.
“Stick Fly” runs through June 5 at the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Howard Drew Stage at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets starting at $36 are available in lineat the box office or by calling 402.553.0800.