Get to Everyman Theatre if you want to see something completely different, something completely captivating, something almost surreal in theater. The Brothers Size, by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is a play about two brothers living in the mystic bayou of Louisiana somewhere in “the distant present” according to the play bill. There are just three characters in the play. The staging is simple – a raised platform with a rustic, wooden bench and built in seats set up in the middle of the theater. There are no barriers between actor and audience. There are no costume changes in this production and no intermission. From the time the show begins until it ends, you are captive in the world of The Brothers Size.
As the play opens, the two brothers come in from different sides of the theater. They move in slow motion, dream like. One actor sings, “the road is rough” and in pantomime he digs with a shovel against the ground. And as you watch, you try and orient yourself to what is happening – is this a dance, a song, a poem, a dream? And then it becomes quiet and one actor steps up to the platform and speaks a stage direction -- “Ogun sighs and enters.” And the play has begun.
Ogun, played by Yaegel T. Welch, is the older brother Size. Ogun owns and runs his own car repair shop. He has a home. He keeps regular hours. In other words, he’s stable, solid, responsible – typical traits of an oldest sibling. Oshoosi, played by Chinaza Uche, is the younger brother. Recently released from jail and living with his brother, Oshoosi doesn’t have a job, doesn’t keep regular hours, and doesn’t own a thing.
The opening dialogue between the brothers is so representative of sibling relationships that you laugh out loud. Ogun tries to wake his brother up for the day and Oshoosi resists. Ogun says, “What will you say to your parole officer?” Oshoosi replies, “I am currently seeking employment.” Ogun reminds him that he has a job in his own car repair shop. Oshoosi moans. They go back and forth. It’s typical brotherly rapport that is humorous and familiar. We’ve all had these exchanges with our brothers or sisters: “Get up now or I’m leaving.” “Get up now or I’m telling Mom.” Except in the case of The Brothers Size, there is no Mom or Dad, no wife, no children. The two brothers simply have each other, and at times that is good enough, but at times, it is a prison.
The sibling relationship begins to unfold layer by layer. The scene moves to the car repair shop where Oshoosi finally arrives for work. The brothers face off there as well. Ogun, in the middle of a car repair, comes out from under a car he’s fixing and says, “Ogun comes out from under the car, irritated.” His brother says, “Oshoosi smiles innocently.” Ogun replies, “Ogun goes back under the car.” This use of stage direction as dialogue is interesting. At first it’s amusing, then almost endearing, then becomes invisible as the story deepens.
The tale takes a turn with the arrival of Elegba, played by Powell Lawrence, a former jail mate of Oshoosi’s. He is a smooth, confident man who enters the scene as a friend and good time buddy to Oshoosi, but in time exerts a dark force on him. Oshoosi has a dream that Elegba comes to him, for him and there are echoes of something between them. Later Ogun has a dream, a premonition that Elegba is bad for his brother. It’s a warning of things to come. These dream scenes are powerfully staged and the emotional connection between the actors plays out unspoken. That’s part of the power of this show— you not only hear the language of the characters and participate in the stage direction, but with the slow motion action between scenes, the use of song in key parts of the production, and the dream scenes, you truly feel the love and loss of the relationships on stage. Actors Welch, Uche, and Lawrence, new comers to Everyman Theatre, have an incredible command of their characters.
As Elegba leads Oshoosi down the road to trouble, big brother Ogun warns him not to do something that will get “your ass back in the pen.” But he does. And big brother Ogun has to clean it up. But you hear the agony of his burden when he confronts his brother saying, “You are part of all I got left nigger. When you fuck up, I fuck up. That’s my lockdown.”