Sometimes birthday gifts are particularly special and the gift of Stick Fly at Writers Theatre was a great choice. One of our wonderful ‘daughters’ contacted me about a month or so ago and asked what we were doing on February 19th. I checked the calendar and said that we were free. She told me that she was getting us tickets for Stick Fly in Glencoe, a play by Lydia Diamond.
Lydia Diamond is an American playwright and professor who was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1969. She has taught playwriting at the following impessive institutions: DePaul University, Loyola University, Columbia College Chicago, Boston University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Northwestern University and among her plays are: Stick Fly, Harriet Jacobs, The Bluest Eye (an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel), and Voyeurs de Venus.
We loved the play. My first thought was how does the cast react to doing this play, being African-Americans and playing to an almost completely white audience in a lily white Chicago suburb? The cast was composed of a dad, two sons, a white female significant other for one son and a fiancée for the other, and the daughter of the maid.
There were lots of things to discuss in this play where you have different educational and financial backgrounds of the various characters. The play takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Besides the usual possibility for conflicts, there are issues concerning what parents want and need on the part of the success and life choices of their children and the ways in which children often disappoint their parents, some never managing to please them. I need to clarify here, that in my head, parents have a responsibility to their children but at a certain point, they no longer have the right to impose their ideals and values on their children’s choices.
Then, there are situations that fold into other ones. Where is the mom in the family, why isn’t she there? Is everyone comfortable in this beautiful home or is this an out of the ordinary experience? Why isn’t the usual maid here? She is sick and her daughter is replacing her. Why is her daughter experiencing a rough time?
In any case, the dialogue is beautifully done, some moments happening simultaneously, yet flowing into one another. The set beautifully plays into it by appearing to be one multi-leveled room that soon turns out to be separate rooms, allowing us to see people separated by invisible walls.
The universality of the conflicts is what is most striking. We are not used to seeing African-Americans from families in which education, money, and intellectual prowess have been around for much longer than my entitled white, yet blue collar background in which I was the first to escape the rough beginnings. Yet, we ALL experience the same problems, just different versions of them.
This is the second play of Lydia Diamond’s that we have seen, both of which were seen at Writers Theatre. Both of them were especially wonderful and both beg they question, if you haven’t been to Writers Theatre before, what are you waiting for?