Forget about the title, “Stick Fly.” It’s of minor significance, connecting to a character’s scientific fascination with bugs.
And don’t obsess about the fact that the Omaha Community Playhouse presents an affluent black family with two sons bringing home young women, one black and one white. While race plays a role, another source of social distancing eventually becomes the core of the LeVay family’s dysfunction.
Not race, but class, the economic gap between patriarch Joe LeVay (D. Kevin Williams), his sons and their young maid Cheryl (Nina Washington) gives Lydia Diamond’s drama its greatest impact.
Cheryl is filling in for her ailing mother, fetching libations and cleaning up after Dr. LeVay and his sons. And there’s a family mystery or two that hovers over their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard.
Sure, some racial tensions rise between the young women meeting the men’s family for the first time. Olivia Howard, as Taylor the fiancé of Spoon (DJ Tyree), unleashes a profane tirade on Kara Davidson, the white girl friend of Flip (Brandon Williams). But it’s just good old family conflict when Flip smacks Spoon with one of the most believable stage punches I’ve ever seen. I wanted to see a slo-mo replay.
By the time all these relationships play out, with the two brothers and their women sorting out their attitudes toward the doctor and the maid, the playwright sets the stage for some of the funniest moments of post-dysfunction dialogue.
After all the fireworks exploding during her first meeting with the family, Kara Davidson nails her departure line, earnestly thanking Dr. LeVay “for your hospitality.” Some hospitality!
A few late exchanges were enough to remind at least briefly of the two all-time great dysfunctional families, Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County.”
There are all sorts of reasons to enjoy “Stick Fly” including the Jim Othuse scenic design of a stage-wide interior of the family’s island cabin. Director DeMone Seraphim brought a host of theater credits to his first work for the Playhouse, and he assembled a strong cast, ranging from veteran actor D. Kevin Williams to newcomer Kara Davidson. Don’t overlook her bio sketch which identifies her as a “physical theatre artist\puppeteer” who “does aerial\circus acts (trapeze, silks, lyra).”
We’ve seen strong evidence for the talents of both DJ Tyree and Brandon William, but their roles here added new dimensions to our appreciation. And Nina Washington deserves special recognition for illuminating the plight of the maid Cheryl.
“Stick Fly” runs through June 5 on the Howard Drew stage of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets from $36 are available online, at the box office or by calling 402.553.0800.