You can never truly understand me until you meet my sister. We share a bond that runs so deep it often defines us. Since we were little girls, she’s always brought out all the best (and the worst) parts of me, almost as if they’re tucked away inside her. If you have a close sibling, you probably get it. There is so much of you wrapped up in that built-in best friend, secret keeper, bully, partner in crime. Maybe that’s why it hurts so intensely to see them fall.
Ogun Size (James A. Williams) knows this pain all too well. In The Brothers Size, which opened in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio over the weekend, his younger brother, Oshoosi (Namir Smallwood), falls hard and often. And when Oshoosi returns from a recent stint at the penitentiary, well-to-do Ogun assumes his regular fraternal role of picking up the pieces. Big brother Ogun once again becomes Oshoosi’s father, mother, parole officer, employer, and even alarm clock. He does so stoically and without question, as if it is simply what he has been called to do.
But while in prison, another man assumed a brotherly role in Ochoosi’s life. Sly Elegba (Gavin Lawrence) enters the picture with his velvet vocal chords and trickster ways. If Ogun is the voice of reason in Ochoosi’s life, telling him to work hard and do right, Elegba represents Ochoosi’s deep desire for freedom—from work, time, responsibility, his past. He is a dark force that Ochoosi struggles to resist. But something keeps him indebted to the man, something difficult to catch or even understand—love. He even calls him “brother.”
In this raw, passionate exploration of black masculinity and relationships, you witness Ochoosi struggle to balance these two figures in his life, though they are seemingly worlds apart. Written as the second installment in The Brothers/Sisters Plays by highly acclaimed Tarell Alvin McCraney, directed by Marion McClinton, and co-produced by Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company, the work blends West African storytelling, song, and poetry. (McCraney is the playwright you’d elect to write the story of your life. Even the stage directions, which the three actors announce aloud as they perform, are pure poetry.)
For those with siblings, or people you love as siblings, this Pillsbury House Theatre production is a must-see. It dissects a love so precious and unconditional, we seldom take the time to explore it. Somewhere between dialogue infused southern African American vernacular, cool, hypnotic rhythms contributed by drummer Ahanti Young, and characters so real you can see yourself in them, The Brothers Size does something amazing: it teaches us how to love by simply reminding us why we do.
You’ll leave ready to call your brothers and sisters, and wanting badly to hug them.
The Brothers Size
Through Sept. 29
818 South 2nd St., Mpls., 612-377-2224