A family’s secrets under scrutiny in ‘Stick Fly’ at Prince William Little Theatre

As an affluent African American family gathers in their vacation home, longstanding tensions are revealed.

Award-winning playwright Lydia R. Diamond captures the experience of the upper-middle-class African American family with more than a few secrets. With only six characters, she constructs a lively weekend when long-standing family tensions bubble under the surface waiting to be revealed. Written in 2006, Stick Fly opened on Broadway in 2011 and was nominated for a Tony in 2012.

On Martha’s Vineyard, an affluent African American family gathers in their vacation home. The family patriarch, Dr. Joseph LeVay, is a physician, played by David E. Roberts. One of his two sons is also a doctor, Harold “Flip” LeVay, played by D’Angelo Rashad Woods, while the other, after several false starts in a variety of careers, is struggling novelist Kent “Spoon” LeVay, played by Taveion Mickens. Both sons bring along their current girlfriends to meet the family for the first time.

Taveion Mickens as Kent ‘Spoon’ LeVay and Kristina Romulus as Taylor in ‘Stick Fly.’ Photo by Amanda Elena Photography.

As Act I opens, getting things ready is Cheryl, the daughter of the longtime housekeeper’s daughter, played by Trinitee Pearson. At first, the audience thinks Cheryl is just a college student, earning extra money for the summer, but as she is filling in for her sick mother it becomes clear that she and her mother have a long-standing relationship with the family. First on the scene are Kent and his new fiancée, Taylor, played by Kristina Romulus. Next to arrive is the wealthy plastic surgeon, “Flip” Levay, whose self-assuredness is a bit offset by the fact that he is introducing his white girlfriend, Kimber, played by Holly Landis, to the family. And last is Dr. Levay, whose presence evokes a little sibling rivalry between his sons.

The family engages in a half-hearted game of Trivial Pursuit, and the conversation and the cutting remarks fly on subjects ranging from race to economics to politics. Tempers begin to flare when Kimber’s aggressive views on education — especially for poor, urban African Americans — are challenged by Taylor. Tensions are clear as she and Taylor get into heated discussions of race and privilege. What is good about this production is that the actresses do not get drawn into the cliché of overacting — Romulus plays Taylor with passion and authority as Landis counters with a matter-of-fact style that keeps her grounded when the character could be looked upon as “just another white person” trying to assimilate into a Black family.

As “Spoon” LeVay, Mickens meets the challenge of a son trying to stand up to his father while also providing a believable “nice guy” image trying to somewhat keep the peace. Woods navigates the role of “Flip” smoothly with a hint of mischievous charm and a little bit of arrogance as the favored successful son. Roberts portrays a likable yet dubious Dr. LeVay as more about him is revealed in later moments. Finally, Pearson’s performance as Cheryl is both energetic and poignant in her portrayal of someone who grew up in the household but is also trying to find her place among a myriad of emotions and circumstances.

D’Angelo Rashad Woods as Harold ‘Flip’ LeVay; Holly Landis as Kimber and D’Angelo Rashad Woods as Harold ‘Flip’ LeVay; Trinitee Pearson as Cheryl, in ‘Stick Fly.’ Photos by Amanda Elena Photography.

The technical part of the production is seamless. There is no curtain, but Roger Ray Jr.’s set design works very comfortably as the components of a vacation house. Andrew Harasty’s lighting, Mary Jo Ford and Shelia Cephas’ set dressings, and Lani Boschulte’s sound design worked well, letting the story take the lead with the audience.

Many secrets unfold in Act I (which I won’t give away), and there are some good, unexpected comedic moments in the play. Director Chaz D. Pando successfully focused his efforts with the ensemble to create tension and identity shifts with a contemporary perspective. However, it is Taylor, an entomologist busily collecting specimens amid the turbulence, who gives us the metaphor in the title: Stick Fly lifts its title from the way entomologists study fast-flying insects by gluing them on a stick to be more closely observed. Each of the characters gets their own scrutiny under a magnifying glass as they all essentially take turns uncovering their secrets and vulnerabilities.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

Stick Fly plays through March 17, 2024, presented by Prince William Little Theatre performing at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA. Tickets ($30 adult; $25 senior, student, and military; $20 youth ) are available online or through the Hylton Center box office at 703-993-7759, Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.

Stick Fly
By Lydia R. Diamond
Directed by Chaz D. Pando

Cheryl – Trinitee Pearson
Kent “Spoon” LeVay – Taveion Mickens
Taylor – Kristina Romulus
Harold “Flip” LeVay – D’Angelo Rashad Woods
Joe “Dad” LeVay – David E. Roberts
Kimber – Holly Landis


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