When we look at ourselves and our families under a microscope, none of us are blameless. Drama, deception, love, pride and admiration are more than skin deep. For entomologist Taylor, the world is full of tiny creatures to inspect. And, as the daughter of a famous author, she’s used to being eyed closely. Now that she’s meeting her fiancé’s family at their home in Martha’s Vineyard, she has to let down her guard and let a new family study her.
Much like Taylor’s meticulous study of flies, Lydia R. Diamond’s “Stick Fly” pulls every dimension into perspective. She takes her family-unit case study and puts everything they know to be true front-and-center. Race. Class. Gender. Sexuality. Heteronormativity. This intersectional piece is a lesson in human relationships, the way money changes how we view ourselves and how race changes everything else.
Taylor knows what to expect from the varietals of flies. Whether their wings will swoop in one direction or another, what they eat, where they live. But human beings aren’t like that. We are inherently affected by everything around us, whether those influences are other human beings or the wider world. And in this production, Jennifer Latimore is the ideal study. Her well-rounded Taylor is an easy protagonist to root for and her monologue on the perils of white privilege and feminism is a delight.
The rest of the cast is hardly dismissible. Under Ron OJ Parson’s expert direction, this cast shines. Returning to the Writers Theatre stage, David Alan Anderson as patriarch Joe LeVay is not to be missed, while Ayanna Bria Bakari and Kayla Raelle Holder are a duality this show needs in order to hit hard. As younger brother Kent, Eric Gerard is perfectly matched to DiMonte Henning’s older brother Flip.
Making this perfectly imperfect family home all the better is Linda Buchanan’s gorgeous scenic design. The “quaint” family home in the vineyard, with the occasional sailboat passerby, speaks volumes of the family’s financial status. But little details, like the bookshelf, tucked away above the kitchen, putting it out of reach, remind us that we must look deeper to understand the intricacies of this family’s life.
As Taylor succinctly reminds us (I say “us” because nearly everyone in the audience at the performance I attended was white), it takes more than being a white liberal to be an ally. Our security in our own skin must be stripped away, thrown onto a slide and carefully examined. White privilege oozes. It doesn’t sit still. Much like the common fly, it flits, never in one place for too long. And each time it lands, it makes a mess. (Amanda Finn)
Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, (847)242-6000, writerstheatre.org, $35-$80. Through March 15.