The stories of the orishas, a pantheon of spirit personalities, has a lasting influence on the descendants of enslaved Africans throughout the Americas (The great French-Cuban hip hop band of the 1990s, Orishas, took their name from this tradition.) The characters in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s THE BROTHERS SIZE are named after these spirits, and their personalities mirror the respective orisha. Like his iron-working warrior-god namesake, Ogun Size (Carlo Campbell) is a noble figure with a knack for mechanics. He gives his wayward brother Oshoosi Size (Akeem Davis), named after the spirit of the seekers, a job at his auto repair shop. But after a two-year stint in prison, Oshoosi is reluctant to work and risks falling under the influence of former cellmate Elegba (Kirschen Wolford), namesake of the trickster god of the underworld (the character works at a funeral home).
The names ring with spiritual meaning and McCraney’s language is richly poetic (“You open your mouth and everybody knows where the pain at”) and dramatically stylized. Characters sometimes speak as if reading stage directions (“Ogun comes from under the car.” “Eating, unusually quiet.”), a potentially grating affect which resonates successfully in James Ijames direction for Simpatico Theatre Project. But underpinning the lyricism and allegory is an arresting and dramatically rewarding personal tale. Ogun and Elegba fight over Oshoosi’s lost soul, but they do so in a concretely sculptured world of a small Louisiana Bayou town. In a series of well-framed scenes, Ijames finds a fittingly restrained balance between poetic exuberance and naturalistic emotion, drawing controlled and moving performances from his three fine actors. October 2-November 3, 2013, simpaticotheatre.org.
- BROTHERS SIZE is part two of McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays trilogy. Plays & Players Theatre is concurrently staging part three. Read the Phindie review of Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.
- Simpatico creative team James Ijames and Allen Radway consider McCraney and his trilogy.