In True Colors Theatre Company's Stick Fly, the main character studies insects, but playwright Lydia R. Diamond prefers to put wealthy African-Americans under the microscope. Stick Fly takes place over a weekend at the LeVay family's Martha's Vineyard summer home, when the two sons, Spoon (Jahi Kearse) and Flip (Javon Johnson), bring home the new women in their lives. One girlfriend, Kimber (Elizabeth Wells Berkes), is white, making the play comparable to a race-reversed Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, or perhaps a less-jokey Meet the Parents.
Much of the action we see from the perspective of Taylor (Je Nie Fleming), a successful entomologist and neglected daughter of a famous, recently deceased black intellectual. Over the weekend, Taylor struggles to make her way through a minefield of social faux pas. Though she's quick to take offense at Kimber's white liberalism, Taylor's insensitive to the condescending way she treats the family's young housekeeper (Ayesha Ngaujah): offering to help with the housework can be more insulting than just letting her do her job.
Stick Fly cleverly tracks such dynamics while finding humor in what's acceptable and what's not, such as the way the patriarch (GregAlan Williams) hides his beloved pickled pig's feet and Tabasco sauce. Williams delivers his lines with one of those privileged, snifter-of-brandy voices without making it sound like an actorly affectation. Fleming, Berkes and Ngaujah so effectively find the spark in their roles that they leave Kearse and Johnson in the shade as the brothers.
Despite Diamond's command of the race and class tensions among wealthy black intellectuals, the playwright proves less confident with dramatic structure. At times director Derrick Sanders, founding artistic director of Chicago's Congo Square Theatre Company, has trouble setting a strong sense of momentum and pace given the play's short and sometimes repetitive scenes. And Stick Fly features some standard-issue secrets and lies (two of the young people had a brief fling in the past, for instance) as unnecessary means to generate conflict. Stick Fly builds to some big, sordid revelations, but only because plays about the rich and famous always have to build to big, sordid revelations. Digging up the family dirt is a requisite activity for any vacation weekend.
Stick Fly. Through June 3. $20. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. True Colors Theatre Co., the Balzer Theater, 84 Luckie St. 678-528-1500. www.truecolorstheatrecompany.com.
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