By Demetra M. Pappas
This “semester” on Broadway, there is serious examination of the interplay of race, gender and ethnicity – a veritable survey course in the introduction of sociology. Lydia R. Diamond’s Broadway debut, Stick Fly (Cort Theatre), presented by Alicia Keys (who also composes original music for the production) is a superb tri-fecta. This dramatic comedy of the LeVay family is set in David Gallo’s incredible set, a Martha’s Vineyard summer home for the wealthy African American family. Tony award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson plays a flawed father, whose neurosurgery practice is emulated by his plastic surgeon son Flip (a prowlingly arrogant Mekhi Phifer) and Kent/Spoon (Dule Hill), whose first novel is about to be launched. An unimpressed Joe that “paid for law school, business school in a master’s in sociology,” and questions when Kent is “going to get a job.” Having gone to law school, graduate school and gotten an advanced degree in sociology, I felt for Kent when he “shrank,” according to his new fiancée Taylor, played with compassion and ferocity by Tracie Thoms, an earnest entomologist who is deemed still lacking, despite a background as a semi-acknowledged (but legitimate) daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner. While the “surprise” of the weekend was supposed to be Flip’s white (no, Italian, no, WASP) girlfriend Kimber (Rosie Benton), a privileged woman who works with inner-city students, the truest surprise of this play (which is ultimately more about family dysfunction than anything else) is young Condola Rashad, as second generation housekeeper Cheryl. This young woman receives second billing to the more acclaimed and famed, who should watch out – Rashad’s Broadway debut follows on her acclaimed performance in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning Ruined, and I predict she will someday soon bring a Tony to place on her own family’s mantle.