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The Brothers Size

The Brother Size. Drama. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Directed by Darryl V. Jones. Theatre Rhino, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA.

Director Darryl V. Jones, three fine actors and the technical crew at Theatre Rhino have mounted a solid production of McCraney’s story of a troubled brotherhood, sacrifice and strength. The second play in a trilogy, The Brothers Size incorporates West African Yoruba spiritual tradition and folklore, the topics of black oppression and lack of opportunities with gritty contemporary black dialogue all set in the backwoods Louisiana Bayou.

The Yoruba people believe that people live out the meanings of their names. Big brother Ogun, named after the Yoruba Orisha deity for iron and metallurgy, is a hard-nosed, pragmatic mechanic dedicated to his auto shop. Played by LaKeidrick S. Wimberly, Ogun is big, brawny the symbol of strength. His younger brother, recently paroled from prison, is Oshoosi, a name associated with the hunter and is related to the jail, justice and with the persecuted ones. Gabriel Christian, wiry and energetic, embodies his character’s aimlessness and yearning for freedom. His prison mate, Elegba, played by Julian Green, complicates the and exacerbates the tensions between the brothers.

There are a number of dream sequences that allude to a sexual liaison between Oshoosi and Elegba, touching on the down low nature prevalent in the black community. Director Jones and Sound Designer Daniel Banatoa include work songs, the blues and tribal rhythms between scenes adding to the spiritual atmosphere of the play.

The Brothers Size and friend Elegba dance to the work song "Just Step On". Photo by Stephen Ho.

The Brothers Size and friend Elegba dance to the work song “Just Step On”. Photo by Stephen Ho.

The dialogue sounds like almost poetic, with characters speaking their stage directions directly to the audience. There’s excellent use of ritualized, yet modern dance movements choreographed by Laura Elaine Ellis. The lighting by Wesley Rou wonderfully creates the hot, steamy bayou days and cooler starry nights with just yellow and blues tones.

Oshooshi’s need to for escape, to the magical lands of Mexico or Madagascar is a sharp contrast to his brother’s anchored life. Ogun reconciles his long held guilt and shame over perhaps abetting his young brother’s plight and when Oshoosi is inadvertently caught in a drug bust, its Ogun who understands that he must set Oshoosi free, to escape a return to prison and to fulfill his Yoruba destiny – to hunt for a new self, a liberated Oshooshi.  When Ogun tells is brother to ask the new Oshoosi if he remembers Ogun, the love between brothers is deep and everlasting.

A dream sequence reveals dark secrets between the two prison mates. Photo by Stephen Ho.

A dream sequence reveals dark secrets between the two prison mates. Photo by Stephen Ho.

There are wonderful flashes of acting brilliance in all three principals; Ogun’s internalized anger, Elegba’s tenderness towards Oshoosi while realizing he can never come between the brother’s bond, and Oshoosi’s unguided wanderlust. The Brothers Size is a fine accomplishment and McCraney may have a bright future as a playwright.

Performances run September 24th through October 15, 2016. therhino.org   1-800-838-3006

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