Sheaun McKinney, Teo Castellanos and Ryan Geaorge in The Brothers Size. Photo: George Schiavone
Every now and then, a play with a fantastic script comes along and is utterly wrecked by stiff acting and shitty phoned-in directing that makes you want to jam a dental drill into your eye socket. GableStage's production of The Brothers Size, which opened last night at the Biltmore, is not one of those plays. Just the opposite.
Performed on a stripped down stage, native Miamian and New World graduate Tarell Alvin McCraney's seminal one-act play about two brothers living in the Louisiana bayou is steeped in West African mythology
and religion And it tells a rich, dense tale through fantastic acting and simplified direction.
This was McCraney's first crack at directing one of his own plays,
and the kid knocked it out of the park with direction that got the hell
out of the way and let his actors tell the story.
Also, The Brothers Size
features music from Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass, which, as
everyone knows, automatically makes any play anywhere 100% more fucking
badass. So there's that.
The tale of the Size brothers is the classic responsible big brother/reckless little brother dynamic. Ogun (Sheaun McKinney), who owns his own auto-repair shop, is involuntarily saddled with the burdened charge of being responsible for younger brother Oshoosi (Ryan George), who recently got out of prison and lives life with his head in the clouds.
Ogun constantly admonishes Oshoosi to get a job and to get his life on the level. Oshoosi exasperates his concerned bro with a mischievous and playful attitude that reflects a soul that wants to venture beyond fixing other people's carburetors and get out of Dodge, where the air is dewy fresh and the ladies are just dewy.
Their bond is further strained when Oshoosi's prison mate, Elegba (Teo Castellanos), suddenly shows up one day to stir shit up. Elegba is kind of a menace. You're not sure whether this dude is to be trusted or not. And that might be the point.
The characters in The Brothers Size are all based on deities from the Yoruba mythology, and McCraney craftily maneuvers all three men through the story to reflect their respective deities' traits.
The story rests entirely on the actors' shoulders, and all three turned in flawless performances as men with frayed souls, each dealing with the past while struggling to grasp their future. McKinney carried Ogun's heavy heart with quiet intensity, while George was charming and affecting as the restless Oshoosi. The always-amazing Castellano kept the production anchored as the enigmatic Elegba.
Whether it's African drum beats and a ringing bowl echoing throughout the theatre at different intervals, or the engaging manner in which the characters sometimes called out the stage directions for emphasis, McCraney's script is at once deep, intelligent, funny, and resonant.
The Brothers Size is provocative, charming, heart wrenching, hilarious, and emotionally charged all rolled into one. It's a heady brew of awesomesauce that once again proves how GableStage is head and shoulders above all other stage companies in this town while also shedding light on McCraney's insane talent. For a play that is essentially a coming-of-age story featuring three men riffing, expounding on brotherly love and mythic themes for an hour and a half, every note has to be hit perfectly, and all parties involved nailed it.
Look for our full review in this week's issue
The Brothers Size runs thru October 2 at GableStage at the Biltmore (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). 8 p.m. Thursday thru Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $47.50. Call 305-445-1119 or visit gablestage.org.
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