I've already deconstructed Charles Isherwood's review of Lydia Diamond's Stickfly - do I really have to do the same thing for the New Yorker's equally-erratic theatre queen, Hilton Als? I suppose I should, but frankly, I'm not sure I can - Als' truly bizarre pan of this smart, funny, complicated play simply defies description. His post on the New Yorker's "Culture Desk" is a critical (and maybe psychological) car crash of epic proportions; indeed, I'm not sure I've read a paroxysm quite this incoherently breathless since Kael saw Brando naked in Last Tango in Paris - Al seems to have been undone mentally in some deep way by Diamond's play. He rants that Stickfly "panders to black audiences" by "revering whitey" while simultaneously "putting down whitey"!! Uh-huh. And trust me, that's not the half of it.
It's almost weird what this play is doing to New York, isn't it. Who could have guessed it would prove this radical? The spectacle of a big, well-made drama, written by a black woman, about a black experience of wealth and power that exists largely independent of white experience seems to have driven the town's critics, white and black, completely nuts. What gives? I wish I knew; but let me think about it some more, and I'll get back to you. (In the meantime, see the play; up here in Boston we showered it with awards for a reason.)