Also see John's review of Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical
Set "in the distant present," The Brothers Size takes place in Louisiana's Bayou Country. After being released from jail, Oshoosi Size (Ryan George) returns to the home of his brother, Ogun (Sheaun McKinney). It is his only sanctuary but it is not without its challenges. Oshoosi's life is filled with both good intentions and bad choices. Though his hardworking brother Ogun is focused on his own car repair business, he must make time to steer Oshoosi on the right path. Their relationship has many layers as Ogun is not just a brother, but friend, mentor, and father figure to Oshoosi. Conflict between them is therefore inevitable.
The arrival of Elegba (Teo Castellanos), Oshoosi's friend from jail, marks the beginning of a kind of tug-of-war. Their sharing of the ordeal of imprisonment, and having each other's backs while in jail, has understandably bound Elegba and Oshoosi together. While that bond (represented by yards of red cloth) strengthened them in jail, it now threatens to weaken their ability to be free by tying them to their past and the mistakes it contains.
The play speaks loudly of a longing for freedom. Oshoosi speaks longingly of a book he cherished while in jail that contained photography of Madagascar. To Oshoosi that may represent both the open spaces just out of his imprisoned reach, and a place (Africa) where he may feel liberated from his perceived oppression of being an African American. The use of music/singing is also freeing. One of the best moments in the show is when Oshoosi and Ogun engage in a playful, Motown-inspired rendition of the song "Try a Little Tenderness." In that happy moment they are just two brothers free from care. Their love for one another is apparent at last.
When Elegba comes with the seductive offer of a car he wishes to give to Oshoosi, it is important because it offers him freedom and independence. Along with freedom comes freedom of choice. The acceptance of the responsibility of the repercussions of those choices may be where Oshoosi falls short in what lies ahead for him.
Some of the attempts at symbolism seem unclear. The use of the African drum and Tibetan singing bowl are impactful in getting our attention, but what do they say about this piece? If it has a historical or ritual reference, it is obscured and unexplained. The vague reference of the contact between Oshoosi and Elegba having a sexual component is a moot point as it does not serve the script in its unexplored state. The use of the actors sometimes delivering their own stage directions straight out to the audience (such as Elegba saying "Elegba exits") comes off as a bit of a gimmick that takes away from the sincerity of the moment, even though it provides a flicker of humor.
McCraney's use of imagery is strong, and his language is at times rough (including liberal use of the n-word). The roughness is part of the painting of the characters, however, as are their fast speech patterns and speaking over one another.
All three actorsCastellanos, George and McKinneywork as a well-oiled machine to create the right mood of the piece, the pacing of the show, and the tension between the characters. While it is not usually a good thing for a playwright to direct his own work, in this case, McCraney's direction is impeccable.
The Brothers Size will be appearing at The GableStage through October 2, 2011. The GableStage is located in the eastern section of the Biltmore Hotel, at 1200 Anastasia Avenue, in Coral Gables, Florida. Valet parking is available, or free parking is available in the Biltmore parking area west of the hotel. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and information you may reach them at 305-445-1119 or online at www.GablesStage.org. The GableStage, formerly known as the Florida Shakespeare Theatre, is a professional theatre presenting classic and contemporary theatre year round. They are members of the Theatre League of South Florida, the Florida Cultural Alliance, the Theatre Communications Group, SouthFloridaTheatre.com and the Dade Cultural Alliance. The GableStage hires local and non-local Equity and non-union actors and actresses, and is involved with the educational community in promoting educational theatre programs.
*Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.