Stick Fly at Windy City Playhouse Review – Outstanding!

My friend told me that the barely two-month old Windy City Playhouse was a unique venue.  She was right!  She also told me that the group presenting “Stick Fly” there were first rate.  Right again!  Go see it.  It was among the best plays I have ever seen, powerful, thoughtful, deep and funny.  What more can one ask?


Approaching Windy City Playhouse

Fantastic acting?  Yes.  A perfect set?  Yes, perfect.  Lighting, costumes, sound effects?  Right on.   The comfort level of the theatre may have also been a contributing factor to the total enjoyment of the afternoon.



The playhouse is a great addition to the Windy City neighborhood at 3014 Irving Park, where, in this newly designed theater space, there is a great bar and lots of nibbles.  We arrived early and had a chance to chat with Artistic Director, Amy Rubenstein. Amy comments, “With Windy City Playhouse, I envision a new kind of theater.  A theater where high art and high levels of entertainment combine – a space for friends to gather, colleagues to engage and strangers to meet, all in the name of art.  Our primary creative endeavor will be live theater, but other contributing art forms will play a part.  With the addition of visual art, auditory art, and the art of mixology, we will entertain and engage audiences in a new and holistic way.”  The atmosphere is charming and so conducive to easy conversation. “With a full service bar, light food and post-show performances, the Playhouse is not a traditional theater, rather a fun, relaxing and entertaining environment. With amenities such as optional armchair seating, the Playhouse is designed as a space for audiences to linger before and after the performance—a place to decompress with art.”


Amy Rubenstein, Artistic Director - photo-B. Keer


The performance was fulfilling on all levels.  Given the number of topics the play covered, it could easily have been disjointed or felt garbled but with Lydia R. Diamond’s brilliant writing, the action flowed naturally and I was totally caught up in the plot development.  Stick Fly was originally developed as part of The August Wilson New Play Initiative at Congo Square where it premiered in 2006, won the Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best New Play that year, went to Broadway in 2012 with an all-star cast – Tracie Thoms, Mekhi Phifer, Dulé Hill – under the direction of Kenny Leon and produced by Alicia Keys, and now it makes a triumphant return to Chicago, with The Windy City Playhouse production.


Lydia Diamond, playwright

Stick Flyis the story of an affluent black family over a three-day summer weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. Young entomologist Taylor (Celeste Cooper), the daughter of a late African-American academic, accompanies her writer fiancé Kent (Tyrone Phillips) to meet his family at their vacation home on the Vineyard. On hand for the weekend is powerful patriarch neurosurgeon Joe (Phillip Edward Van Lear), Kent's plastic surgeon brother Flip (Michael Pogue), Flip’s new white girlfriend Kimber (Kristen Magee) and black housekeeper's daughter Cheryl (Paige Collins).  Chuck Smith’s direction had to be an important factor in the fabulous performances by the entire cast.


Chuck Smith, Photo-Brian Kuhlman Photograpy


Comfortable seats

As the layers of the onion were peeled off, the issues of race, generational perspective, status, intellectual achievement, relationships and more were revealed.  Most assumptions that people generally make about these issues were turned on their heads, and even the assumptions that the characters in the play made about one another, were shown to be false.  It was brilliant.


Phillip Edward Van Lear and Celeste M. Cooper


Celeste M. Cooper, Tyrone Phillips, Kristen Magee and Michael Pogue

Stick Fly’s design team includes Jackie Penrod (set), Jared Gooding (lights), Kristy Leigh Hall (costumes), Ray Nardelli (sound), Cassy Schillo (props) and Majel Cuza (production manager).



Celeste M. Cooper, Tyrone Phillips, Michael Pogue, Kristen Magee, Paige Collins and Phillip Edward Van Lear


The new Windy City Playhouse is designed by renowned theater architect John Morris, celebrated for his designs of Steppenwolf, Black Ensemble Theater, Lookingglass, Raven Theatre, the Beverly Arts Center theater and Old Town School of Folk Music's performance space. Morris’ unique design includes a massive wall-to-wall lighting grid that allows for infinite setups inside the flexible Windy City Playhouse theater space. And for the comfort of audiences, the interior designer has incorporated the option of preferred movie theater style seating or swivel armchair seating. Amy Rubenstein is the theater’s Artistic Director and Evelyn Jacoby is Managing Director.


Lobby's well equipped bar



Playwright          Lydia R. Diamond

Director               Chuck Smith

Location               Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park

Previews             Wednesday, May 27-Saturday, May 30

Opening Night  Sunday, May 31

Closing                 Sunday, July 5

Curtain                 Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30pm

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm

Sundays, alternating at 3:00pm or 5:00pm (consult website)

Tickets                  $20-$45 at 312-374-3196

For more information visit the windycityplayhouse website

Photos: Michael Brosilow unless otherwise noted.



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