We went to the theater last night and saw the play, Stick Fly. Now, this wasn’t the play that we had originally gotten tickets for, covid forced The Rep to substitute plays and this wasn’t the first time that we had tickets for this particular play. We exchanged tickets once to get socially distanced seating and then we exchanged the tickets again, to avoid having to drive in last week’s ice storm. The third time was a charm though. Yesterday, Saint Louis set a new record high temperature of 82 ºF. Because of the heat, I was on the fence about wearing the pictured new sweater that Anne had just finished knitting but decided to go for it and was glad that I did. Vaccine cards in hand and wearing the required KN95 masks we presented ourselves for entry at The Reps new Coca venue. Even though our thrice exchanged tickets put us in the very last orchestra row, the theater is small enough that that was not a problem.
Stick Fly is a six-actor play (Covid don’t you know), set in the present day, during the summer on Martha’s Vineyard. The story told is of the DeVay family an upper-middle class black family that has owned land on the Vineyard since the days of slavery. The original family member on the Vineyard wasn’t a slave, but a slaver, a note which foreshadows some of the moral issues that are brought to light during the play’s two-hour turbulent running time. The first couple to arrive for summer vacation are the family’s younger son Kent, and his new fiancée Taylor, who is nervous about meeting her future in-laws. They are greeted by Cheryl the eighteen-year-old daughter of the family’s long-time housekeeper and herself an unofficial DeVay family member. Next to arrive are the older brother Flip and his white girlfriend, Kimber. Finally, Joe, the family patriarch arrives, rounding out the cast. Not cast are Cheryl’s mother, the housekeeper, who is sick and Mrs. DeVay, whose absence is mysterious.
The play gets its title through Taylor. She is an entomologist who is studying the house fly. Flies move so fast that they cannot easily be photographed. In order to facilitate this photography, flies are superglued to little sticks thus immobilized, their reactions can be recorded as objects are moved towards them.
Sparks start to fly almost immediately between Cheryl and Taylor, but their fire is nothing compared to the conflagration between Taylor and Kimber. Also, it is immediately apparent that Taylor has a past with Flip the older brother. Their father Joe pours gasoline on this already volatile situation with his near constant belittling and humiliation of his two sons. Finally, not to be out done, Cheryl first learns her own secret, which is the most explosive of them all, when her mother calls her with the news. By the end of the first act, the audience is left with the most cringeworthy of soap operas to watch be resolved. As soap opry as it may be, Stick Fly is no daytime TV. Undergirding the above outlaid collection of puny human foibles are discussions of race, sex and class.