Wednesday, September 26, 2012
"The Brothers Size" shares the struggles black men face
I haven’t seen the play yet. I wanted to wait before writing about it, but I couldn’t hold back my excitement. From all accounts, it’s worth the price of the ticket. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed, but I’m hipped because it’s a play about black men.
The Brothers Size is on stage at the Manbites Dog Theater through September 29. The play, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is a story of two black brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi Size. It is set in the heart of Louisiana’s bayou, where Ogun owns a car repair business. Oshoosi, the younger brother, comes home from prison to live with Ogun. He struggles to find work despite the inspiration of his brother.
It’s a story known too well by black men. Finding employment after serving prison time is hard to endure. Making matters worse is the arrival of Elegba, who Oshoosi met in prison. Elegba tempts Oshoosi with promises of introductions to women. Conflict is stirred between the brothers due to Ogun’s mistrust of Elegba.
Ogun, Oshoosi and Elegba are all named after gods of Yoruba, an African religion. Ogun is the god of tools and metal, Oshoosi is the god of the hunt and undertaker of quest and Elegba is the Yoruba trickster.
The Brothers Size is the second part of McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy. The first play, In the Red and Brown Wate,r was a huge hit from coast to coast. Like Brother Size, In the Red and Brown Water draws on folk tales from Yoruba mythology.
“This piece is really special to me because it's not often that you see such a powerful piece by a contemporary African American male playwright, featuring an all African American male cast,” says Chaunesti Webb. “And these guys are really amazing performers.”
Webb’s play, I Love My Hair When it’s Good: & Then Again When it Looks Defiant and Impressive, set a record for the greatest attendance numbers ever at the Manbites Dog Theater. “Manbites Dog Theater recognizes the emerging audience of African-American patrons who are interested in stories that are relevant, edgy and thought-provoking,” Webb says. “The work that Manbites Dog Theater does is an alternative to the Durham Performing Arts Center, reaching another segment of the Durham arts community, delivering a unique experience to downtown Durham.”
Durham is fortunate to have Webb and Howard Craft living and working in Durham. Crafts recent play Nina Simone: What More Can I Say is another masterpiece among the rest of his works. Those of us who love plays wait patiently for Webb and Craft to create something new.
In addition, Wendell Tabb, director of Theatre at Hillside High School, has been directing plays for 25 years. Tabb has developed a theater department recognized as one of the best high school programs in the nation. Throw in the work at the North Carolina Central University Drama Department, and Durham has become a hot spot for black theater.
The coming of The Brothers Size introduces Durham to great work created by black play writers from places outside of Durham. Hopefully more will come.
I’m excited there’s a play about black men. I was beginning to feel like an invisible man.
Durham, open your arms to the real world of diversity.