The Griot, a storyteller in African tradition played by Jamaque Newberry, comes walking out on the stage as we find our seats…
The record player has been playing blues music in the background. He walks over to the corner of the stage where it sits on a table. It rests beneath a scaffolding structure where drums, a windchime, and gong are also positioned. He changes the record from blues to a chant. The lights dim and the doors close. He then walks across the back platform carrying a shovel and sets it center stage.
Standing center in the spotlight, he raises his arms and breathes out.
American Players Theatre Immerses Us In Yoruba Ritual
The feeling of ritual continues as the three other actors descend down the stairs from the audience onto the stage. The stage is bathed in a red light and the three men begin a rhythmic dance. You too might be thinking that they could be gods coming down to embody these characters we’re about to see play out their story.
Between scenes, we’re treated to more of these movement pieces, punctuated by drumbeats and guttural cries. Oshoosi moves the metal bench to the middle of the stage while Ogun pulls a toolbox from under the platform. Ogun lays down on a wheeled wooden pallet, he rolls under and out from the bench as he works on this car in his shop.” In this way, the actors move around the stage pulling everything they need from the corners to transform into the different places. They are simple changes to place us in the scene.
Mending Their Relationship
Ogun, played by Rasell Holt, wants to care for his younger brother, but can’t find the best way to make sure he stays out of trouble. He dictates that Oshoosi, played by Derrick Moore,will work in his auto shop since Oshoosi needs a job while he’s out of jail on probation. He thinks being strict with Oshoosi will protect his brother and keep him from going back to prison.
Oshoosi, on the other hand, feels controlled and like he might as well be back in prison as he’s told where to go and when. He shows his younger age as he drags and sometimes stomps his feet in protest to Ogun’s rules.
On the surface it seems like this is a tough love situation, an older brother simply trying to protect his younger one. But as we follow their highs and lows as the two try to navigate their current situation, we find their history and their deepest wants and worries. When Oshoosi does find himself in a predicament, suddenly all Ogun’s frustrations come out as he lays into Oshoosi. We’re almost in tears as we feel sympathy for both the brothers.
When it seems like all that’s left is pain, the scene shifts. This purge of emotions was enough for the brothers to reset. The stage changes and is bathed in a soft blue and purple light. It’s now late night and they’ve started recollecting their childhood. Ogun asks Oshoosi to sing that song he does so well. Moore takes center stage and croons Try a Little Tenderness while Holt provides background moves a la The Temptations. We feel their reconnection and feel hopeful.
Sibling drama seems to be a common theme this season at American Players Theatre. After watching The River Bride and Sense and Sensibility where we explored the relationship between sisters, here in The Brothers Size we dive deep into Louisiana to unpack the Size brothers’ relationship. Here though, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play and our experience is shaped by the Yoruba culture of West Africa, starting with The Griot ritual introduction.
The Brothers Size is a play about the depths of brotherly love set with different rhythmic punctuations. It would be a good fit for those who are looking for a powerful story that covers a vast range of emotions.
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Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Gavin Lawrence
Voice & Text Coach: Nathan C. Crocker
Assistant Director: Vincent Williams
Costume Design: Trevor Bowen
Scenic Design: Lawrence E. Moten III
Lighting Design: Michael A. Peterson
Sound Design: Josh Schmidt
Assistant Costume Designer: Jeannette Christensen
Stage Manager: Domingo Mancuello
Stage Manager: Jacqueline Singleton
Original melodies created by the ensemble.
Thru October 8
Tuesdays - 7:30pm
Wednesdays - 7:30pm *July 20 8pm*
Thursdays - 7:30pm
Fridays - 8pm
Saturdays - 2pm *July 23 8pm
American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
Spring Green, WI 53588
For more information and tickets visit the American Players Theatre website.
Photos Courtesy of American Players Theatre
About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski