Airing dirty laundry, upscale style, in “Stick Fly”

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Imagine a Jerry Springer episode featuring a feud among the members of a highly educated, affluent, African-American family, with a couple of visiting romantic partners and the teenage daughter of the family’s maid tossed into the mix. Then imagine all the possible manifestations of dirty laundry that might end up blowing in the salty breezes as these people gather in the family’s posh, oceanside summer home in an exclusive area of Martha’s Vineyard.

That is the setup for Lydia R. Diamond’s play “Stick Fly,” which debuted at Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre in 2006, was produced on Broadway in 2011 and is now receiving a juicy if rather hyperventilating revival by its original director, Chuck Smith. The show is the second entry in the inaugural season of that new super-sized Equity storefront theater, Windy City Playhouse.



When: Through July 19

Where: Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park

Tickets: $20 – $45

Info: (773) 891-8985;

Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission

Diamond’s play covers largely unexplored turf, and, to her credit, she was ahead of her time — bold enough to explore this territory before Barack Obama arrived in the White House, and before Colson Whitehead penned his novel “Sag Harbor,” which deals with similar aspects of race and class. Subtle her play is not, as one outburst and revelation follows another in quick succession. But it opens a window on a segment of American society too often ignored.

Dr. Levay (Phillip Edward Van Lear, ideally smug and arrogant) is a neurosurgeon, a professional success story who also “married up” and whose prime real estate came as a long-ago gift from a white man. He lives according to his status but enjoys snacking on pigs’ feet on the sly. His wife, we soon deduce, has decided not to come to the Vineyard — an unusual choice.

The eldest of the doctor’s two sons, Flip (Michael Pogue, all cool confidence), is a well-to-do plastic surgeon and ladies’ man who has brought along his girlfriend, Kimber (Kristen Magee), an independent spirit who makes much of the fact that she is an inner-city teacher — “white, but of Italian origin.” Flip knows his mother will not be pleased.

Flip’s younger brother, Kent (an impressive turn by Tyrone Phillips), is a sweet, insecure fell0w — a writer about to have his first novel published. His father is dismissive about his career path and lack of money, but he is encouraged by his fiance, Taylor (Celeste M. Cooper, fiery but just too relentlessly high-pitched), who is meeting the family for the first time, or so we are led to think. An entomologist, Taylor is the play’s most wildly neurotic character, given to the most unabashed outbursts and rants. Blame it on the fact that her father, an esteemed black intellectual, abandoned his wife and daughter early on, leaving them to live a life of difficult financial circumstances.

Last but by no means least there is 18-year-old Cheryl (the ever-luminous Paige Collins), a stellar student hoping for an Ivy League scholarship, whose mother, now ailing, has worked as a housekeeper for the Levays for many years. Cheryl has stepped into the job for the summer, and [spoiler alert here], her mother wants her to have a day of reckoning with her boss.

As Diamond suggests, there are plenty of examples of racism, sexism and class-ism at the boiling point within the African-American community itself. And while this certainly is not news, as the black bourgeoisie thrives in this country, it is material well worth examining.

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