Reviewed by Judy Richter
After the opening of Marin Theatre Company's production of "In the Brown & Red Water," Bay Area audiences could enjoy the opening of "The Brothers Size" across the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco's Magic Theatre just a week later. And it won't be long before "Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet" completes Tarell Alvin McCraney's sensational trilogy -- "The Brother/Sister Plays" -- at American Conservatory Theater in downtown San Francisco. The trilogy has already been hailed in New York, Chicago and London, but this is the first time that it is being presented in tandem at three different theaters.
The first part has a nine-member cast who portray a variety of characters, but "The Brothers Size" uses only three actors who portray the same characters throughout its 80 intermissionless minutes. The general setting is the same, though -- a hardscrabble black community in Louisiana's bayou country. The two main characters are Ogun Size (Joshua Elijah Reese) and his younger brother, Oshoosi (Tobie Windham). Ogun is the auto mechanic who was seen in "In the Brown & Red Water." Oshoosi has come to live with him after a year in prison. Their parents have been dead for a long time. The other character is Oshoosi's friend Elegba (Alex Ubokudom), who also appears in the first play, but he's older and more subdued here. Several characters from the first play are mentioned.
This intense drama focuses primarily on the brothers' efforts to create a family relationship as Ogun tries to keep his younger brother on the straight and narrow while Oshoosi tries to find himself. Their efforts are complicated by Elegba, who also has served time in prison and who has his own complicated relationship with Oshoosi. Several dream sequences heighten the drama. As directed by Octavio Solis, Reese and Windham are both terrific as the brothers. Ubokusom's Elegba is a little more problematic, perhaps because he has the lesser role.
The set design by Sarah Sidman (who also did the lights) and James Faerron effectively uses the three-quarter round stage with only piles of tires and an oil barrel for set pieces. The costumes are by Lydia Tanji, while Sara Huddleston did the sound.
As he did in the first part, McCraney has his characters voicing some of their stage directions. It's no coincidence that some of those directions say that Ogun or Oshoosi "sighs." They're navigating some treacherous emotional waters and taking the audience right along with them It's a powerful drama.