Theater Review

'The Brothers Size' tells a mystical, mesmerizing tale

CorrespondentSeptember 17, 2012 


  • More information What: “The Brothers Size” by Tarell Alvin McCraney Where: Manbites Dog Theater, Durham When: 8:15 p.m. Thursday - Saturday and Sept. 26-29; 3:15 p.m. Sunday Tickets: $12-$17 Contact: 919-682-3343;

The troubled relationships siblings often maintain are grippingly portrayed in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brothers Size.” Manbites Dog Theater’s exemplary production features moving characterizations and striking direction, making it highly recommended despite its raw language and gut-wrenching situations.

McCraney’s story of two African-American brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi Size, is set in the Louisiana bayou, where Ogun has built up a respectable car repair business. Younger brother Oshoosi, fresh out of prison, has come to live with Ogun whose efforts to motivate Oshoosi into finding work have not succeeded.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Elegba, Oshoosi’s former prison mate, who tempts Oshoosi into more indolence with promises of introductions to local women and the use of his car. Ogun’s mistrust of Elegba and his concern for Oshoosi’s well-being fuel a constant conflict between the brothers that masks their deeply abiding bond. Ogun’s love is put to the test when trouble brews anew for Oshoosi.

McCraney’s tale is based on characters and situations in West African mythology. The playwright also weaves subtle poetry throughout the street talk, giving the dialogue a heightened reality.

Director Joseph Megel enhances the concept by creating a mystical world that envelops the audience from the start through ritualistic movement and percussive drumming by the actors, recurring for each scene change. Derrick Ivey’s imposing matrix of hanging tires and ropes and Kathy A. Perkins’ stark, eerie lighting provide the otherworldly setting for this mesmerizing staging.

Enough cannot be said about Kashif Powell’s towering performance as Ogun. The actor digs beneath Ogun’s no-nonsense demeanor to reveal a man who has been hurting for a long time, building to a shattering emotional climax. J. Alphonse Nicholson ups his reputation another notch as the cocky Oshoosi, especially for assuming the part on short notice for an ailing Jeremy V. Morris (who returns to the part late this week). Powell and Nicholson boldly explore the twisted layers of Ogun and Oshooi’s love-hate. Thaddeus Edwards gives Elegba a decadent cunning that signals hidden motives in befriending Oshoosi, his sensuous line readings a telling contrast to the brothers’ vehemence, although he’s sometimes too soft-spoken for maximum clarity.

Kudos to Manbites Dog for offering the Triangle such thought-provoking, contemporary fare for the past 25 years.


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