Rhythms, dramatic lighting, percussion, mythology, magic …. One walks out into the night after an evening with “The Brothers Size” in a somewhat dream-like state. Images and sounds from a different world remain with a viewer, setting her/him apart from the city traffic and lights for a time. This is the sort of experience one would wish for in every visit to the theater, but it seldom comes together so strongly.
Young playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose “Brother/Sister Plays” yielded “The Brothers Size,” is hailed as one to watch, moving fast into the theater community after a patchy start in a Florida project, with a crack-addicted mother.
He graduated from Yale School of Drama's Playwriting Program, working with the great August Wilson on his last play, “Radio Golf.” He was playwright-in-residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a member of Chicago's prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company … and more.
Director Dee Covington has developed a sensitive, magical tale for today.
The audience arrives at Curious Theatre, where “The Brothers Size” plays through April 13, noting a steel jungle-appearing set with angled beams and a few platforms.
Through Shannon McKinney's dramatic lighting, it becomes a home, a jail, the bayou, a mechanic's shop, inhabited by three men named for gods from the Yoruba Cosmology, which slaves brought to America many years ago.
Jason Ducat's sound design ties the work together. He writes of listening to recorded spirituals from the Alan Lomax collection, as well as studying music from the Yoruba culture. In rehearsal, he said the actors picked up on the music and it all came together.
These three fine actors dance at times (The Alvin Ailey Dance Company was a strong influence on McCraney), use whatever is at hand for percussion and speak their stage directions as well as their lines, all in a strong rhythm.
They also sing at times, including a rousing version of Otis Redding's “Try a Little Tenderness” and traditional spirituals.
In Yoruba mythology, Ogun, the elder brother (Cajardo Lindsey), is the god of war and iron, while younger brother Oshoosi (Laurence Curry) is a forest spirit and divine hunter — also a wanderer. Elegba (Damion Hoover) is a messenger between the gods and the world, a shape-shifter.
Sturdy Ogun, an auto mechanic who works from dawn to dusk, hopes his brother, just released from jail, will settle down and work with him, but charming Oshoosi lazes in bed, dreaming of women and cars. Hovering is jail-mate Elegba, in a contest for Oshooi's soul — and body.
McCraney said beautiful Yoruba tales were complex and had not-so-happy endings, which fits this contemporary, yet otherworldly, story.
This is a true “don't miss” for theater-lovers.
If you go
“The Brothers Size” plays through April 13 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Denver. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: curioustheatre.org, 303-623-0524.