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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red and Brown Water Tantalizes But Stick Fly Delivers

I went to two quality plays this week with wonderful African American casts. But the feel and reaction to both plays was different. At Studio Theatre, Tarell Alvin McCraney's In the Red and Brown Water continues the lyrical and gritty qualities that he started a couple years ago with the better The Brothers Size, as he follows a young woman through her maturation and growth. (In the Red and Brown Water actually comes before Brothers Size; one of the characters is starting his career in this play.) The language remains fluid and haunting, and the actors sizzle with vibrancy, but the story floats out there more - it's harder to get a handle on it. The mostly white crowd was kind in its applause but certainly not overwhelming.

At Arena Stage, Stick Fly tells about a well-to-do family in Martha's Vineyard and the interesting women that the two sons have brought home to meet their parents. One of the women is the amazing Nikkole Salter who co-authored and starred in In the Continuum at Woolly Mammoth a few years ago. She is worth the price of admission. Lydia R. Diamond's play is not a great one, but the feelings seem right and story feels accessible - and how often can we say that any more about a play. August: Osage County felt that way as well, but more over the top and haunting. The esteemed director Kenny Leon - who the program says will direct Denzel Washington in Fences on Broadway later this year - brings humor and warmth to the proceedings. The audience was at least half African American, of all ages, which is great to see. When it ended, the audience rose to its feet to applaud, I think because good old-fashioned, intelligent theater is hard to come by these days - in any color.

It's too bad that Sticky Fly has to end Sunday; it hasn't gotten the word of mouth that it deserves.

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