The Brothers Size: Whose Bond is Stronger?
By Patricia Rogers
Last night I was able to catch the opening preview of "The Brothers Size" at Luna Stage Theatre. Once again I walked into the transformed theatre, due to impressive set design. I sat through an hour and a half of a moving experience.
When I think of "The Brothers Size," I think of three characters sharing a relatable story. One that hits a lot of communities and showcases issues that have been affecting African American men for years.
Written with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unique voice, he finds a way to use slang, and use of the word nigga in meaningful and comical ways. Luna Stage Artistic Director Cheryl Katz says, “McCraney is probably the most celebrated African American playwright of his generation.” Though we could all recognize similar characters and scenarios, "The Brothers Size" is its own story.
I like to visit the Context Room (open one hour prior and 30 minutes after productions) after the performance. I want to go into the shows at Luna with as much of a clean slate as possible. I leave my mind and soul open to what I may connect with. And then I can see how other aspects of the play’s world can somehow meet me halfway.
From the Context Room I learned "The Brothers Size" was one angle of many different stories with themes of African family and ancestry. I was impressed with the subtlety and how these themes were brought into modern times, and aspects affecting our culture as African Americans. But this work speaks to all people.
Everyone wants to feel safe and protected. As humans, we tend to gravitate towards what feels safe to us. No matter what the circumstances. "The Brothers Size" tells the story of three men who are way more complex than they initially seem, with bonds that go even deeper.
There’s Ooshi, young man played by Shamsuddin Abdul-Hamid, who has fallen into the path of a criminal and is recently out of jail. His older, responsible and hard-working brother Ogun, played by Brandon Carter, works as a mechanic. They both can’t sleep.
Then there’s Elegba, played by Clinton Lowe, whose presence never seems to be away completely. He and Ooshi having served time together and know the Size brothers from the neighborhood.
Throughout the play we see the two Size brothers bump heads on what is next for the younger brother. Ooshi is forced out of bed by Ogun in the morning and bombarded with the word “parole” and questions about what he did in the pin, Ogun letting him know that if he does not work at the shop with him, or get a job, he is out on the street.
Ooshi wants have to fun and meet girls, like most boys his age. He worries that his brother works too much and does not take time to enjoy life. Ogun’s nightmares are filled with sounds of labor, reminding him of slavery times.
There are moments we think Ooshi will fall in line and follow the “right” path of Ogun, who keeps his head down and works everyday. But then there’s Elegba who always walks onto the scene singing a tune. Ooshi is happy to talk to someone he can relate to and harmonize with. The two sang and protected each other in jail. Also reminiscent of songs sung by slaves to relieve the stress of their entrapment.
Ogun, however, does not want Ooshi to have anything to do with Elegba, who was still into the life of crime. But then, Elegba comes around with what Ooshi always wanted and has been denied by Ogun: a car. And that is when bonds, paths, and choices all begin to blur.
The use of rhythm and the characters speaking in the third person heightened certain moments and, in a way, helped differentiate the characters and where they stood metaphorically, in a familiar tale of surviving the hood. Cheryl Katz believes, “this is an important play, as a theatre lover and a human being.”
As I watched, there were questions that kept popping in my head, especially watching the scene when Elegba and Ooshi watch the sunset. Who between Ooshi and Ogun were really free? Whose bonds were stronger? What would you do to protect someone you care for?
The bright lights and sounds of the garage kept the audience and the characters present. You had to hear, and listen. The play was fast paced, and when it was over it did not feel like an hour and a half. I wanted more. What happens to these three men? Will Ogun continue to work? Will Elgba get used to being behind bars? And where will Ooshi end up?
About the Writer
Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. StartingMasconsumption Media in 2012 she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more. She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services. Visit her blogwww.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on her social media @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).