The Public Theater's 'The Brother/Sister Plays' delivers on script, direction and talent

Misani | 4/12/2011, 4:35 p.m.

"The script was on point! The direction was tight! The actors were all amazing," the actress Magaly Colimon declared following the riveting debut preview performances last Wednesday of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "The Brothers Size" and "Marcus: or the Secret of Sweet."

These two plays constitute Part 2 of the groundbreaking trilogy, "The Brother/Sister Plays," which includes Part 1, "In the Red and Brown Water," currently running at the Public Theater in New York City through December 13.

"I loved it!" Colimon exclaimed passionately.

Directed by Robert O'Hara, "The Brothers Size" and "Marcus: Or the Secret of the Sweet," is an avant-garde, magnificent theater experience that delivers over and over again. In both plays, McCraney pushes the envelope, ingenuously breaking through restrictive contemporary conventions to find existential perspectives in man's search for love, communion and kinship, as well as the innocent and holistic understanding of sexuality and identity.

In "The Brother's Size," time shadows the distant present of the fictitious San Pere town in Louisiana, where Oshoosi Size (Brian Tyree Henry) has returned to after being incarcerated. Here, he is hounded by his elder brother, Ogun Size (Marc Damon Johnson), who is very similar to his African namesake, the Nigerian Yoruba god of iron and/or as he is also called by the people of Benin, "gu," the Abomey word for "metal."

Ogun, who works in metal as an auto mechanic, is very rigid and tough, qualities that he frequently unleashes on his younger brother, Oshoosi (named for the warrior/hunter god), who he feels needs to get his life together.

Like the mythological Ogun, who is also the protector of warriors and hunters, Ogun (who years earlier had taken on the task of looking after his little brother following the death of their mother) hires his brother to work in his auto shop, a confining, dirty job that Oshoosi detests.

Into this sibling relationship comes Elegba (Andre Holland), named after the mythological Yoruba (as well as Beninese) trickster who was never given credit for his good deeds, but instead was blamed for every evil that occurred. This is what evolves when McCraney's Elegba, who had met and formed an intimate relationship with Oshoosi in prison, later reunites with him when they both return home to San Pere.

The brilliant McCraney does an excellent job in matching each of these modern-day characters to reflect the personas of their mythological counterparts in this contemporary story.

Relative to the set, there are also no restrictions because apart from a large metal table center stage and a large, old stained glass window there are no sets. This works wonderfully in the intimate Public's Anspacher Theater.

Adding to McCraney's powerful dialogue, which is both humorous and filled with pathos, is the popular R&B music that serves to lighten the tense and melancholy mood during heated moments between the Size brothers, making them think of more joyful days. Music is one of the elements that has sustained these men, especially Oshoosi, in and out of prison. It is what has helped him to ease the pain during the times of loss and loneliness.