Highly Recommended **** For those of you who have not yet visited the new Windy City Playhouse, on west Irving Park, perhaps now would be a perfect time to do so. They have just opened up their second production, Lydia R. Diamond’s terse drama, with some very comic moments, “Stick Fly”. Directed by Chuck Smith, this is the story of a well to do African-American family and its secrets. Before I get into the story, let me say something about this new venue. This is what might be called a “Black Box” theater in that it can be reconstructed for every play they bring to life. It is a large space, with high ceilings and very comfortable seating (almost too comfortable, if that is possible). They are able to build the stage in any area of the “box” and then place the seating accordingly. Thus, each director and scenic director can create something special for their show. Jacqueline Penrod has created a beach home that most everyone in the audience would love to have as their getaway home.
The story is about the Levay family. This is their home! The head of the household is Dr. Levay (played to perfection by Phillip Edward Van Lear), a neurosurgeon. As the curtain opens, we get to watch the family maid, Cheryl (a delightful Paige Collins) open the house and prepare for the family’s arrival. The first to arrive is the youngest son Kent (Tyrone Phillips), an author and his fiancée Taylor ( a strong performance by Celeste M. Cooper). The family has not met her, or are they even aware of her. Older brother, Flip (deftly handled by Michael Pogue) a plastic surgeon is next to arrive and he advises the others that he will be joined by his new girlfriend, Kimber, an Italian, which is his way of saying she is white.
As we meet the characters and learn more about who they are, what they do and where they might be going, we also learn that the Matriarch, Mrs. Levay is not coming, yet. Meanwhile, Cheryl is spending a great deal of time on the phone with her mother and as we listen to her side of the phone conversations, we do learn a great deal about some of the past secrets of these people.
In fact, during the 2 hours and forty minutes (there is one intermission) we get deep into the lives and pasts of these characters. We get into the race issues as well as the personality issues and the secrets that have been hidden for years. These are people who appear to only care about themselves with the exception of Cheryl and Kimber, and as the story unveils along with the secrets, Taylor becomes more sincere. The secrets and mysteries come out at the perfect tempo in order to keep us on the edge of our seats, wanting to know more about this family.
The technical part of the production is seamless allowing the story to take the lead with the audience. Jared Gooding’s lights, Ray Nardelli’s sound, Cassy Schillo’s properties and Kristy Leigh Hall’s costumes work well with the Penrod’s set, but it is the stellar cast under the slick, caring direction of Smith that brings this latest version of Ms. Diamond’s “Stick Fly” to its shining brilliance.
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays, rotating 3 or 5 p.m.
Tickets range from $20-$45 and are available by calling 312-374-3196 or online at www.WindyCityPlayhouse.com/stick-fly/. There is a bar and beverages can be brought into the theater (in fact there are tables just for that purpose) and you can even pre-order for intermission.
Valet parking is available and there are spots both metered and not in the general vicinity. NOTE: on Cubs games day or nights, traffic on Irving Park can be a little busy so give yourself a little more time.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Stick-Fly”