BWW Reviews: THE BROTHERS SIZE at the Seattle Rep
Every season there are those few shows that absolutely blow you away, shows that you think about for days, weeks, even months afterward and that you annoy your friends with even longer by saying things like "You mean you didn't see that?!" Last season for me it was "Equivocation" and "An Iliad" at the Rep and "Hamlet" at Seattle Shakes. So far this season the only one to come close to that was OCT's "The Cut". That is until now. That is until "The Brothers Size" came to the Seattle Rep last night and showed me a stunning and moving portrait of the depths of brotherly love that left me reeling from its theatrical blow.
Brilliantly crafted by fresh new voice Tarell Alvin McCraney, "The Brothers Size" explores the relationships between three men in Louisiana all dealing with their own demons from their past and present and where those demons will take them in the future. Ogun Size is all about what he has to do. He has to work, he has to tow the line and he has to take care of his younger brother Oshoosi who has just been released from prison. But while Ogun tries to get him to buckle down and get a job Oshoosi is continually lead astray by his friend Elegba who was in prison with him. And as Oshoosi begins to get his life on track, events and circumstances unfold that strain the brother's already tumultuous relationship. I really don't want to tell you much more as it's better to let it hit you like a Mack truck, and it does!
All three of the men here are equally amazing. Warner Miller as the wayward Oshoosi is sublime as a young man caught between his past and an unpromising future. Eddie R. Brown III as the manipulative Elegba beautifully interwove his complex and layered huckster with gorgeous dance like physicality. And Yaegel T. Welch as the stalwart Ogun infused his character with subtle and subliminal heart for a knockout performance. I don't know when I've ever heard so much anger, desperation and compassion conveyed in the repetition of three words. A truly astounding turn. But then they were all astounding. Every performance in the play has razor sharp focus and intention that never once wavered. And these performances helmed by outstanding direction from Juliette Carrillo and infused with striking movement by Sonia Dawkins, all led to one of the most awe-inspiringly intense shows I've seen.
But as good as the production is I have to say a lot of it boils down to the remarkable work of McCraney. The writing is tight, fresh and mind-blowing. Not one moment of dialogue is extraneous in this richly layered and multifaceted piece. McCraney manages to take the audience through a minefield of emotion where you never know where you will end up. It's almost like a game of storytelling cat and mouse where even as you think you know what's coming you're introduced to a whole new avenue of thought. Even after the show my theater companion and I kept finding new an interesting depths to the story which only makes me want to go back and see it again to see what I missed. McCraney's ability in one scene to take his audience to the heights of emotional intensity, and just as it's becoming uncomfortable to allow his audience a humorous release only to switch them right back into the intensity is nothing short of remarkable.
Combining Yoruba influences with western ideals and infusing the play with music and constant interjections of the actors' stage directions brings the piece beyond a touching story and takes it to the level of art. The play is part of a trilogy of plays from McCraney known as "The Brother/Sister Plays" which are dedicated to his siblings including "The Brothers Size", "In the Red and Brown Water" and "Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet" and I can only hope that the Rep will continue their commitment to bringing new works like this to Seattle audiences and bring in the other two plays to complete the trilogy.
So basically what I'm saying is run don't walk to the Rep to catch this show. Lest you become one of the unfortunates who missed this astounding work and hear, "What?! You didn't see THE BROTHERS SIZE?!"