Friday, January 22, 2010

They did not Stick the landing.

Show: Stick Fly
Theater: Arena Stage, Crystal City. 1800 Bell St. Arlington, VA.
Metro: Crystal City (Blue and Yellow Lines). Directions here.
Genre: Living room Drama
Dates: Through February 7
Rating: 2.5/5 Starving Artists

The hardest shows to talk about are the ones about which I did not have strong feelings. I’d be happy to share with you my icy dislike or the warm glow of my enjoyment, but what do I say when I was just lukewarm? How do I describe a play that was good, but barely good enough?

As for our recent outing in this category, Stick Fly was… interesting. I was intrigued by the story, and wanted to see how it ended, but I can’t say it wasn’t predictable. The playwright, Lydia R. Diamond, tells the story of an particular American minority: the “Black Upper Class”. I liked where that was going. That’s a world I know nothing about, and I’m always excited to learn about people about whom I know nothing, especially in a theater. My favorite parts of the play were passing references to their world, like Jack and Jill, a sort of high society club for African American children. These little bits of culture were quite captivating, but they were too sparsely interspersed in a larger web that was much less captivating.

Lady AWesome and I were having trouble deciding what made it so bland. At first we thought it might be the acting, but I’ve decided that I was impressed by the acting, but not blown away. Amber Iman was particularly good as Cheryl, especially in the second act. Then we thought it might be the story, but that was intriguing enough. So we have come to the conclusion that it was the writing. The dialogue was hard to believe. People seemed to say exactly what they meant at any given time. Characters were able to receive hugely revelatory information and then joke about it in the next moment as if it were old news. Everybody seemed upset most of the time, but nobody talked as if they were surprised by much. The actors were doing the best they could with material that made them hard to believe. All this left us with a play that was just ok. Certainly not as great as the last few things we saw at Arena.

As is often true, my reviews of the uninteresting shows are the shortest. There are much better things playing right now, and I’ll write about them in a few days. But my next post is going to be VERY exciting, so stay tuned…

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