Manbites Dog Theater’s superlative 2012-13 season-opener, the North Carolina premiere of The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney, provides a showcase for four of the Triangle’s finest actors: Kashif Powell as Ogun Size; Jeremy V. Morris and J. Alphonse Nicholson (alternating) as Ogun’s prodigal, fresh-out-of-prison younger brother Oshoosi Size; and Thaddaeus Edwards as Oshoosi’s mysterious friend Elegba, who wants Oshoosi to return to their life of crime.
Kashif Powell is magnificent — simply magnificent — as Ogun, named for the Yorùbá warrior god of iron. Ogun and Oshoosi live in a junkyard beside a Louisiana bayou. But The Brothers Size bears no resemblance to the “Sanford and Son” television series, starring Redd Foxx. Kashif Powell’s Ogun may run a junkyard, but he is made of sterner stuff, and he makes a heroic effort to keep Oshoosi from going back to prison.
Working against Ogun is Elegba, who is named for the trickster deity of Yorùbá mythology. Elegba is eager to throw a spanner in the works of Ogun’s rehabilitation plans. Hovering — always hovering — on the edge of the action, the smiling but subtly sinister Elegba — impishly portrayed by Thaddaeus Edwards — seems to eavesdropping on the Size brothers’ epic confrontations, and he plays Mephistopheles to Oshoosi’s Faust — and Oshoosi never realizes, until it is too late, that he is taking all the risk in Elegba’s drug-smuggling enterprise, while Elegba is reaping all the profits.
When Oshoosi Size secretly resumes his wicked, wicked ways, he breaks his brother Ogun’s heart; and that heartbreak is passionately portrayed by Kashif Powell and Alphonse Nicholson. Powell’s Ogun is a giant, whereas Nicholson’s Oshoosi, named for an African hunter deity, is a wanderer who has ultimately lost his moral compass.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty member and StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance co-founder and co-artistic director Joseph Megel stages The Brothers Size with enormous empathy for the three 21st century African Americans who become the flesh-and-blood counterparts of a trio of African deities. Megel knows how to leaven melodrama with a healthy dose of Magical Realism.
Set and costume designer Derrick Ivey‘s minimalist set, with used tires, tied together for a backdrop and knotted ropes providing an ersatz curtain to the junkyard’s shop area. Ivey also provides an ample arena for the epic fraternal confrontation that Joseph Megel so skillfully orchestrates. Don’t miss the 100 minutes of The Brothers Size and the fervent standing ovation at the end of each performance. This time, Triangle audiences can shout “Bravo!” without any fear that they are over-praising a production.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 19th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Kate Dobbs Ariail (who awarded the show 5 out of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-brothers-size-an-amazing-script-by-tarell-alvin-mccraney/Content?oid=3151966; Sept. 18th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/09/17/2350008/the-brothers-size-tells-a-mystical.html; and Sept. 16th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jeffrey Rossman: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5730. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s Sept. 14th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/09/in-the-brothers-size-tarell-alvin-mccraney-injects-ancient-african-myths-into-present-day-louisiana/.)
Manbites Dog Theater presents THE BROTHERS SIZE at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 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.
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).
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 review 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/.