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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 07
The Brothers Size - the essence of good theatre
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The Brothers Size - the essence of good theatre

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Brothers Size
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through February 27


Once in a while, you get to enjoy something that is the pure essence of an experience. The production The Brothers Size at Seattle Repertory Theatre is one of those experiences. It's the essence of what those who love theater think theater should be.

You know it from the moment the lights go down. From the stylized dance steps, beautifully sung รก cappella melodies, strong, muscled human bodies, expressive faces, gorgeously minimal staging, warm lights, and mythic, mystical language, accented from the Bayou.

Tarell Alvin McCraney has beautifully crafted a play about brothers and brotherhood. Oshooshi Size (Warner Miller) has come home from prison seemingly just the same as when he went in. He's a laid-back slacker, unsure of what he should do in life, but desirous of the trappings of the American dream. His hard-working older brother, Ogun Size (Yaegel T. Welch), is tired of his brother's slacker ways and tries to motivate him through tough love to work hard and regain a solid footing in society's opinion.

But there is another kind of brother, Elegba (Eddie R. Brown III), who has bonded closely with Oshoosi in prison. His call on Oshoosi is just as strong as Ogun's. Elegba, though, tugs toward the same kinds of dangers that Ogun is trying to protect Oshoosi from. Which brotherhood will Oshoosi turn to? What is the nature of those relationships?

McCraney digs deeply into the areas of society that are often ignored, as we in the 21st century (with a black president) would like to feel we have moved beyond. Very current statistics, though, refute that for vast areas of our country, where huge percentages of young black men are imprisoned, or have to deal with the aftermath of imprisonment. McCraney himself wrote the play partly to dedicate it to his own siblings, one of whom spent a couple of years in prison.

He uses 'Yoruban mythology' to anchor what he calls 'distant present' (which happens sometime between now and then) to a present past. The Yoruba includes up to 40 million people spread in diaspora from southwestern Nigeria across the globe. Combining with other faiths, it creates hybrids such as Candomble, Santeria, and Voodoo, which remain prominent in the United States, particularly in the South. In Yoruban myth, Ogun is the god of tools and metal, Oshoosi is the god of the hunt, and Elegba is the god of trickery.

With occasional asides to the audience ('Ogun pulls himself back under the car'), ritual dance, drum beats and poetry, the production draws the audience in. After a few minutes of getting used to the strong Bayou accents, the power of the performance overtakes you. The trio of actors is incredible and absolutely riveting.

Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams' set design is limited to old tires on a slab of concrete and a sky that slides open and contracts to fit the scene. The space is said to be an abstraction of the Louisiana delta. The changing sky is a dramatic counterpoint to the music and dialogue.

The costumes created for the play are by Constanza Romero, in a modern representation using the myths. The choreography, brilliantly conceived by Sonia Dawkins, is a mix of Afro-Brazilian dance and hip-hop. Sound designer Matt Starritt created the rhythmic drum/heartbeat, insistently intruding and occasionally incorporating original musical compositions by Kathryn Bostic. The music perfectly augments or illustrates moments in the play.

Director Juliette Carrillo uses all the talents of these amazing actors, all of whom move surely and gracefully, sing beautifully, and speak movingly. The totality of the production will not be soon forgotten. Only those who would be offended by a lot of swearing should consider not going.

For more information, go to www.seattlerep.org or call 206-443-2222.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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