BWW Reviews: Outstanding Writing, Direction, and Acting Elevates THE BROTHERS SIZE to Antiquity and Back
Despite its billing of a tale woven in the Louisiana bayou during the 21st century as written by 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney, "The Brothers Size" actually has its genesis in some West African village over 3,700 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a cultural bridge connecting the ancient with the contemporary.
With musician S-Ankh Rasa who hails from Dakar, Senegal operating as a silent but completely integrated spiritual guide with his solitary drum, unseen to the characters but very present to the audience, the beats which emanate from his instrument creates the storytelling space for three modern day male griots to narrate a tale so visually moving and powerful that it simples leave you speechless from start to finish.
Under the outstanding production team of director Tre Garrett and assistant director George W. Donaldson III, running at one hour and 15 minutes, the show reviewed was one of several preview shows before the production opens on Fri., Oct. 3.
Interesting enough, the preview was so polished and production ready that if Merrian Webster updated the definition in their dictionary and added a picture, Jubilee's "The Brothers Size" would be featured prominently.The story opens up with a Yoruba inspired movement arrangement with Rasa at the helm, which was majestically crafted by D/FW-based choreographer JuNene K. involving the three male griots.
It must be noted the characters were named after specific Yoruba orishas and the characteristics of these emissaries of Olodumare (or God) are the personality traits they possess. Oshoosi is the hunter and the scout of the orishas, whereas Elegba is the owner of the roads and doors in this world, the conduit separating the human and the divine. Ogun is the god of iron, war and labor, owner of all technology whose tools are almost exclusively used in war.
The story opens with the younger of the Size brothers Oshoosi, played with dazzling flair and youthful exuberance by the very talented Seun Soyemi and his homeboy Elegba, played by the exceptionally talented Adam A. Anderson who has become a mainstay on Dallas/Fort Worth stages.
The banter between the two friends feels genuine, with Oshoosi straight out of the pen after a 2-year stint and sharing with Elegba, "the pen got me dreaming about pussy nightly." As he reflects on prison life and the many questions posed to him by others about his stay which he answers, Elegba jumps in and says "we didn't tell them everything, did we?," which makes Oshoosi very uncomfortable. With that revelation, you instinctively know the bond between the two men isn't solely platonic.
This dynamic isn't any different than what happens when our male family members come home following a period of incarceration. We want to know if someone tried to mess with them, if they are still men. The phobia we have is actually a Western construct because within the Yoruba culture, the rigid polarities we cement as fact in the West are more fluid and diverse than imagined.
When older brother Ogun enters the room from his auto repair shop, played with smoldering intensity by the incredibly talented Rico Romalus Parker, he admonishes his brother for not being proactive about his life. As he speaks, Elegba stares at him with a level of disdain, which Ogun returns with a cold, steely glare. It is then you know Ogun and Elegba are in a battle with each other for control over Oshoosi by any means necessary.
As Ogun departs, he uses a stage direction to announce his exist, a fascinating writing technique McCraney utilizes throughout the story. While comical at first to the audience, it actually helped to illustrate the very predictable subliminal directions humans take EVERY day as we go about this complex state we call 'living.'
As the story progresses, we learn more about the familial relationship between Ogun and Oshoosi, rooted in sibling preferences by a parent which has placed Ogun in a position where he feels obligated to care for his irresponsible brother, while remaining resentful of Oshoosi at the same time because his life unofficially belongs to him, completely captured by the hunter.He can't even form intimate relationships of his own, including his intended love who left him for another man, "that nigga Shango (the orisha of fire, thunder and lightning) who has a scholarship and is going places."
Due to this dynamic, the brotherly conflict is real and each of these scenes played out exceptionally well, including one pivotal scene in which Ogun has had enough after Oshoosi has screwed up yet another time. The emotions displayed were raw and quite cathartic as Ogun completely assaulted Oshoosi verbally with his shortcomings, a cross he has had to bear his entire life. As Oshoosi acknowledged silently the toil his antics had taken on his brother and he cried, he was joined by members of the audience including this critic.
But even more poignant than brothers coming to terms with each other was Elegba finally revealing himself and his intentions to Oshoosi through a subtle, yet carefully orchestrated act of seduction that was simply haunting. As the two men sit out in the bayou in a car together, listening to classic R&B music which they sing together, Elegba starts to pull Oshoosi into his web.
It is in this scene where Anderson proves he is the consummate actor, willing to take chances for the sake of completely embodying a character. As he speaks, you can HEAR the swamp with its sounds. You can SEE the mosquitos, night animals and amphibians that call the bayou home. You can SMELL the damp air, with a hint of Cajun cooking in the distance. And it is as intoxicating and frightening for the audience, as it is for Oshoosi. In a split second, the course of each of the three men's life is changed forever.I've started looking at productions I've reviewed this year for my 2014 Year-End Picks and while I can't say definitively who's going to walk away with accolades, I have a strong feeling "The Brothers Size" is going to fare very well. This is must see, cutting edge theater, a complete experience.
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"The Brother's Size" has one final preview show this Thu. Oct. 2, before opening on Fri. Oct.3 and running through Oct. 26. Jubilee Theater is located at 506 Main Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102. The box office is open Tue-Fri, noon to 6pm and one hour prior to every performance. Performances are on Thu., Fri., and Sat. 8pm Matinee performances are on Sat. and Sun. at 3pm. For ticket information, call (817) 338-4411 (ext. 2 for Sales or ext. 3 for season ticket information) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. "The Brothers Size" is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York