After an absence of several years, Joe Stern is back producing at his theatre, the Matrix, and he has decided to take the Matrix Theatre Company in a new and challenging direction. He hopes to do a season of three plays that will be multi-cultural in nature. ”I want one play to have color content (the current Stick Fly), then another would be non-traditional casting and double-cast with different races, then perhaps an indigenous casting piece.”
The first playoff in this multicultural season is the magnificent Stick Fly by Lydia R. Diamond, a gripping story set among the upper class of Martha’s Vineyard, where African Americans have had a presence since the 1600s. Two brothers of the rich LeVay family bring their respective girlfriends home, one white and the other black, and the sparks fly and don’t let up until the final curtain.
In this play Lydia R. Diamond, an important new voice in the theatre and particularly the black theatre, explores intra-racial prejudice and inter-racial hatred, as well as ambivalence, class, family, fidelity, and trust. Stick Fly reminded me of another great New England playwright, Eugene O’Neill, because it exposes the secrets and stories of a highly dysfunctional family. Strangely enough, it also reminded me of the play The Last Night at Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry, which brings to light the tensions between Jews in the South who come from different branches of the religion. Then, of course, the influence of August Wilson is visible in the play's concern with inter-generational issues as well as what it means to be black.
The ensemble cast couldn’t be better. The patriarch, Dr. Joseph LeVay, is beautifully played by John Wesley. You can never quite pin him down: is he a saint for having brought his family into the society of Martha’s Vineyard, or a sinner who has wrought terrible pain on the family? Chris Butler and Terrell Tilford play the twin brothers. Butler’s character is the put-down younger brother who can’t seem to do well in his father’s eyes. Tilford plays the selfish brother, a self-absorbed womanizer who defies his family by bringing home a white woman, played by the beautiful Avery Clyde.