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Theater Review: 'Stick Fly' -- 2 stars

Mekhi Phifer and and Tracie Thoms in “Stick

Mekhi Phifer and and Tracie Thoms in “Stick Fly." (Richard Termine) Credit: Mekhi Phifer and and Tracie Thoms in “Stick Fly." (Richard Termine)

Stick Fly
2 stars

Something is very wrong when the transitional music played between scenes is treated as the most important part of a play.

Unsuspecting theatergoers could easily be led to believe that music artist Alicia Keys is appearing in Lydia R. Diamond's contrived, overwritten, ridiculously soapy play, given that her name is splashed on the advertisements. But if you look closely, you'll see that Keys has merely provided some original music and is billed as a producer.

Devised as a mix of family melodrama and Tyler Perry-style comedy, the play takes place at a rich African-American family's pricey beach house on Martha's Vineyard where Spoon (Dulé Hill), an aspiring fiction writer, has brought his fiancée Taylor (Tracie Thoms), an etymologist whose famous father abandoned her at birth, to meet his parents.

Just as you'd expect, the secrets and revelations soon leak. It turns out that Spoon's brother Flip (Mekhi Phifer), a plastic surgeon who thinks himself a ladies' man, previously had a one-night stand with Taylor. Further, Flip's fiancée Kimber (Rosie Benton), an inner-city teacher, is white, a fact that Flip had previously tried to conceal.

Also present is Spoon and Flip's disapproving father Joseph (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), a neurosurgeon, and Cheryl (Condola Rashad), the teenage daughter of the family's maid, who is filling in for her sick mother.

Kenny Leon, who directed the smash Broadway revival of "Fences" with Denzel Washington, tries to emphasize both the broad comedy and the drama whenever the tensions flare. For instance, the play suddenly catches fire when Taylor and Kimber get into a heated argument over racial inequality, class and feminism.

In spite of a few sincere performances, "Stick Fly" is utterly derivative of better-known family dramas and dependent on shock value. It also doesn't help that the scene changes are painfully slowed down in order to showcase Keys' original music.

If you go: "Stick Fly" plays an open run at the Cort Theatre. 138 W. 48th St., 212-239-6200,

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