Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stick Fly Opens on Broadway

Stick Fly, a new play by Lydia R. Diamond, has opened on Broadway with a starry cast, including TV star Dulé Hill, Tracie Thoms, Rosie Benton, Emmy- and Tony-winner Reuben Santiago Hudson (of Lackawana Blues fame) and introducing Condola Rashad, daughter of Tony-winner Phylicia Rashad. The reviews are in and they are decidedly mixed-to-negative.

Variety Magazine said that the play had a great concept behind it but that the execution needed work -- that one or two more rounds of re-writes might have done the trick -- and that Kenny Leon's (Tony-nominated last year for his revival of August Wilson's Fences) direction should have paced the show better, but that overall, the show sort of works. However, some of the performances were particularly praised. Reuben Santiago-Hudson, a Tony-winner for the 1996 production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars, "dominates the action with a comical turn as the controlling patriarch of the clan [while] Tracie Thoms and Rosie Benton contribute detailed portraits of the very different girlfriends." But it is really Condola Rashad who steals the show, according to all accounts (including some word on the street I've managed to pick up from friends in New York).

The New York Times basically agrees with Variety, but states the issue more clearly. Charles Isherwood declares that "the production takes some time to find its bearings. The cast’s rhythms are particularly rushed and artificial in the early scenes." The plot twists and turns, primarily hinging on race and wealth, are soap opera-esque and are about as predictable as can be, adding to the problems in the writing. "The playwright has her hands full just laying out this complicated background and the transition from getting-to-know-you chatter to churning conflict is a little abrupt." But again, the concept behind the show, if not its execution, is actually not bad. The Times also said that the performances are what truly shines here, with Condola Rashad being the brightest bulb in this shed. "Ms. Rashad finds moving shades of shock, pain and bewilderment in Cheryl’s reaction to this potentially melodramatic development. She is also expert at delivering the character’s occasionally surly bit of talkback, when her pride is pinched."

Only time will tell what will be for this play come Tony time, but this play definitely has a promising start towards a nomination in a particularly weak field, since many of the new plays this year have been critically panned or gotten mixed reviews.

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