In “The Brothers Size,” Tarell Alvin McCraney Injects Ancient African Myths into Present-Day Louisiana

The Manbites Dog cast for "The Brothers Size" includes (from left) Kashif Powell, Thaddaeus Edwards, and J. Alphonse Nicholson (photo by Michael McCollough)
The Manbites Dog cast for “The Brothers Size” includes (from left) Kashif Powell, Thaddaeus Edwards, and J. Alphonse Nicholson (photo by Michael McCollough)

On Sept. 13-15, 20-23, and 26-29, Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC will open its 2012-13 season with a bang, with the North Carolina premiere of The Brothers Size, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Joseph Megel. Presented with support from Durham’s Duke University Department of Theater Studies (http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/) and Chapel Hill’s StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance (http://www.streetsignscenter.org/), The Brothers Size will star Thaddaeus Edwards, Jeremy V. Morris, J. Alphonse Nicholson, and Kashif Powell.

Born and raised in the impoverished Liberty City section of Miami, FL, Tarell Alvin McCraney is a prize-winning 31-year-old gay African-American actor and dramatist. His Brother/Sister Trilogy begins with The Brothers Size (2007), in which McCraney transplants elements of Yorùbá mythology from southwestern Nigeria to the Louisiana Projects. The trilogy continues with In the Red and Brown Water and Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet (both 2007).

Joseph Megel is an artist-in-residence in Performance Studies and Media Production in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Communication Studies. He also serves as co-founder and co-artistic director of StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance.

According to Faber and Faber, the play’s British publisher:

“There are two brothers Size.

“There is Ogun, who owns an auto-repair shop. And there is Oshoosi, fresh out of prison, who always takes the wrong track. When his ex-cell mate Elegba gives him a clapped-out car, true freedom seems just around the corner.

“The first part of The Brother/Sister Trilogy, The Brothers Size is the European debut of young writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, who plants Nigerian myth in the fertile soil of Louisiana. The play premiered in an ATC/Young Vic production on U.K. tour in October 2007.”

On its website, Manbites Dog Theater adds:

“[The Brothers Size is a] story both modern-day and mythic, by ‘one of the most exciting new voices in the American theater since the arrival of Tony Kushner‘ (San Francisco Chronicle).”

In his January 2007 review of the Big Apple debut of The Brothers Size, New York Times critic Jason Zinoman praised playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who was then a third-year student at the Yale School of Drama: “The Brothers Size, [McCraney’s] absorbing and emotionally resonant drama set in the bayou country of Louisiana and loosely based on West African myths, is decidedly the work of a young writer. But there is evidence in his richly drawn characters and colloquial poetry, which manages to sound both epic and rooted in a specific place, to suggest that he has a long career ahead of him…. Listen closely, and you might hear that thrilling sound that is one of the main reasons we go to the theater, that beautiful music of a new voice.”

Manbites Dog Theater presents THE BROTHERS SIZE at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 13-15 and 20-22, 3:15 p.m. Sept. 23, and 8:15 p.m. Sept. 26-29 at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $17 Friday-Sunday, except $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold one hour before show to students with ID) and $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or http://manbitesdogtheater.tix.com/.

SHOW: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/402/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_sXkVcJjag&.

SEASON: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/season/.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/.

BLOG: http://theupstager.wordpress.com/.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/find/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://www.faber.co.uk/work/brothers-size/9780571239450/ (Faber and Faber), http://www.brothersisterplays.org/about_the_plays.html#brothers (The Brother/Sister Plays), and http://newdramatists.org/tarell-alvin-mccraney/brothers-size (New Dramatists).

The Playwright: http://newdramatists.org/tarell-alvin-mccraney (New Dramatists), http://www.brothersisterplays.org/about_tarell.html (The Brother/Sister Plays), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarell_Alvin_McCraney (Wikipedia).

The Brother/Sister Trilogy: http://www.brothersisterplays.org/index.html (American Conservatory Theater, Magic Theatre, and Marin Theatre Company).

The Director: http://comm.unc.edu/faculty-and-staff/faculty/joseph-megel/ (UNC Department of Communication Studies).

Yorùbá Mythology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoruba_religion (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).