BWW Review: Familial Bonds and Tradition Ground THE BROTHERS SIZE in Moving Production
THE BROTHERS SIZE, directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu and produced by Soulpepper, is a look into the lives of two brothers following the youngest's return home from prison. Tarell Alvin McCraney's 2000 work is an emotional examination of brotherhood and redemption in the deep south.
Ogun (Daren A. Herbert), the eldest brother, is a mechanic who owns and operates his own garage. His brother Oshoosi (Mazin Elsadig) is the wisecracking, authority-defying little sibling through and through. As the two relearn how to live together, their lives are interrupted by the arrival of Oshoosi's friend from prison Elegba (Marcel Stewart) who shows up with a car for Oshoosi, altering their lives drastically with each of his appearances - both in reality and in their dreams.
Many aspects of THE BROTHERS SIZE reference West African Yoruba traditions, from the character's names and costumes through to the inclusion of an expansive percussion suite (compositions and percussion masterfully handled by Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison). There is a strong sense of rhythm present throughout the work, seen in the numerous dance pieces (movement coaching by Jasmyn Fyffe), all of which require a delicate balance of sharp and soft movements.
As the prodigal brother returning home, Elsadig is witty, sarcastic, and at times heartbreaking. There's a childishness to his character, and Elsadig balances the sharpness and sensitivity laced into the role with great care. As his prison-days confidante, Stewart's Elegba is trickster incarnate. Stewart is cool, collected, and calculating throughout but delivers numerous haunting moments within the play's dream sequences.
In portraying the uptight, no-nonsense older brother Ogun, Herbert is a grounding presence in the narrative. While he drops one-liners - often in response to Oshoosi's antics - throughout the play he is a lawful character. It's in the moments where he breaks that façade and caves where he's the most endearing. One highlight of the show is his impromptu collaboration with Elsadig, where the pair perform Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness." In every interaction, the pair bickers and teases like only siblings can, and in a world where family stories are often softened or manipulated for a large market Ogun and Oshoosi are refreshingly realistic in their interactions.
THE BROTHERS SIZE is sure to tug at the heartstrings of all audience members, but as an older sibling to two sisters myself the story hit me especially hard. During the final moments of the play, it was impossible to hold back tears given the chemistry between Herbert and Elsadig and the unconditional support and love between their characters.
Aside from the onstage performances, THE BROTHERS SIZE benefits from the support of a beautiful set (set design by Ken MacKenzie) which features a partially submerged car and pile of tires used creatively to place the actors in various settings. The placement of angled lights (lighting design by Raha Javanfar) above, alongside and on the stage created numerous striking silhouettes, and costumes (costume design by Rachel Forbes) were also handled with great care and attention to detail. The paint on the actor's arms, legs and feet could be seen peeking out from under their basic clothing to reinforce in the traditional Yoruba themes.
THE BROTHERS SIZE, under the guidance of Tindyebwa Otu, is a charged examination of familial connection, brotherhood, and in a more subtle manner, a look into religion, sexuality, and the American prison system. With a fantastic blend of music, movement and spoken word, THE BROTHERS SIZE is a moving reminder of what great theatre looks and sounds like.
THE BROTHERS SIZE runs through May 26 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://soulpepper.ca/performances/the-brothers-size/6178
Main image credit: Cylla von Tiedemann