Review: The Brothers Size (Soulpepper)

Soulpepper Theatre presents a play by Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney in Toronto

Soulpepper Theatre presents The Brothers Size, currently on stage at the Young Center for the Performing Arts, an intimate and hypnotic exploration into brotherhood paired with Yoruban orishas. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Academy Award winner for his screenplay for Moonlight, and directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, this performance combines live music, ritual, and the characters’ highly nuanced relationships making for a magical experience.

This is a story of familial connections with a deeply rooted history. Ogun (Daren A Herbert) runs an auto repair shop in the bayous of Louisiana. His younger brother Oshoosi (Mazin Elsadig) recently released from prison, is eager to savor life on the outside. Tensions rise as the brothers’ drastically opposing personalities crash. The appearance of Elegba (Marcel Stewart), Oshoosi’s former cell mate, who arrives with a car and a proposition, adds fuel to the flames.

The characters’ names are derived from West African Yoruban gods, the personalities of whom play deeply into the trio on stage. Ogun is the metal worker, revered for his prowess in battle. Oshoosi is the quick-witted hunter while Elegba is the trickster.

The dialogue between the characters is poetic, riddled with metaphor and rich with multiple meanings. It begs the audience to get lost in the drowsy hypnotic atmosphere of bayou life. Interestingly enough, certain stage directions are worked right into the dialogue. It’s a little jarring at first, but quickly becomes an integral part of the fabric of this story. The directions add emphasis and often comic relief to the story being told.

Interspersed between scenes are moments of song and dance through ritual; a mesmeric call to the ancestors where it almost feels with each interlude that the orishas are present.

The Brothers Size is remarkably well done. The chemistry between Herbert and Elsadig is very real and present. You feel the familial relationship of brothers throughout their interactions. It must be noted that Elsadig was a recent addition to the cast due to unforeseen medical illness of the original actor. Elsadig joined the cast on April 27, with only two weeks to get up to speed with the character, his integration seemed seamless to me. My date for the evening, Vance, did notice a few trips in his lines at the beginning and also noted that he didn’t have as much movement as the other characters did, but was also otherwise impressed.

Ken Mackenzie built a phenomenal set in the round that is both complex and simple at the same time. The raised platform in the center of the audience is simple in the sense that the stage is only occupied by half a car rising out from the ground and a set of tires. It’s complex due to the nature of how that partial car is used throughout the show.

One of my favorite components of the performance was the music created by Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison who’s use of live percussion gave the story profound depth. I loved how they not only created music to enrich the production but the delicate elements of scratching the surface of a drum to the slight plucking of a single guitar string made quieter moments monumental.

The Brothers Size is stunning. We both thoroughly loved it and can’t recommend it enough. It’s certainly worth experiencing.

Details:

  • The Brothers Size is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) until May 26 2019.
  • Performances run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8:00 pm with Wednesday and weekend matinees at 2:00 pm.
  • Tickets range from $36 to $97, discounts are available for students with ID.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone by calling 416 866 8666, or in person at the box office.
  • Audience Advisory: This performance contains theatrical haze, coarse language and mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.
  • Run Time: 90 minutes without intermission.

Photo of Daren A. Herbert, Marcel Stewart, and Mazin Elsadig by Cylla von Tiedemann

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