Alicia Keys’ ‘Stick Fly’ Gets Mixed Reviews

December 15, 2011  |  

Alicia Keys made her Broadway debut last week as composer of the play “Stick Fly,” a comedy-drama by Lydia R. Diamond about race, class, gender, and generational conflict among upper-class contemporary African Americans. Starring Condola Rashad, Mekhi Phifer, Dulé Hill, Tracie Thoms, and Rosie Benton, the production has been welcomed as a representation of African American life often neglected in other entertainment mediums, but overall, it seems for every hit, the play has an equal number of misses.

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote:

“In its depiction of dark secrets from the past coming home to roost, and neglectful fathers and needy sons, ‘Stick Fly’ is treading well-worn territory, and you can usually spy the next surprise a few beats before it is sprung.

“But Ms. Diamond alters the recipe by blending discussions of black American culture into the batter. As a result, “Stick Fly” sometimes feels like a Tyler Perry melodrama (sans Madea), as it might be revised by a professor of African-American studies specializing in the complex signifiers of class in black society. And like the writing, which is often pointed and funny but sometimes sitcommy and slack, the acting ranges from superficial to richly felt.”

In his Variety review, Steven Suskin wrote:

“With ‘Stick Fly,’ Diamond has attempted a commercial comedy with soapy overtones, but despite the abundance of laugh lines, the first act bogs down with cultural anthropology talk while the second meanders through five scenes. Director Kenny Leon (“Fences”), who successfully staged “Stick Fly” at the Arena Stage in Washington last year, has recast all but one of the roles, but what this play cries out for is a rewrite.”

David Rooney of The Hollywood reporter wrote:

“As over-written as it is, Diamond’s script has enough amusing lines and perceptive observations — particularly about the behavior men learn or reject from their fathers — to keep it engaging. But her characters don’t exactly draw you in, and neither these actors nor the staging help.

And of the director and composer he said:

“[Kenny] Leon’s direction lacks the nimble touch to modulate smoothly from bantering through bickering to the charged confrontations of the final scenes. And in a play that runs an attenuated two hours 40 minutes, producer Alicia Keys’ transitional music is used too liberally, more often calling attention to itself than serving the dramatic tone.”

Overall, I get the impression that the play is tolerable, but you likely won’t come away feeling as though it was the best thing you’ve ever seen. So far the play is scheduled to run indefinitely, so no word on how much time is left to catch a show.

A brief excerpt on the NYT’s website gives a tiny glimpse into the play’s feel. Check it out and tell us what you think. Are you planning to see this play?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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