Yoruba Fantasy

The Brothers Size is not an easy play. It’s just astonishingly brilliant. Obscure at times, its language, spoken by three extraordinary actors, consistently resonates like a bold symphony. The men are vital, intense, and mesmerizing.

Named for three Yoruba deities, the two brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi Size, and their mischievous sidekick Elegba represent modern-day avatars of the celebrated Nigerian gods transported to the “Distant Present” and living near the Bayou in Louisiana.

Ogun Size (Gilbert Glenn Brown) is an auto mechanic, angry and belligerent; his namesake, Ogun, is the god of iron working, and is also known as a mighty warrior. His younger brother Oshoosi Size (Matthew Hancock) is a dreamer. Recently returned from prison, he is grimly pressed into service in his brother’s auto shop, a pale shadow of his namesake, who is the divine hunter concerned with the human struggle for survival. And then there is Elegba, (Theodore Perkins), who bedevils the brothers like the god of chaos and trickery for whom he is named.

Tarell McCraney, the playwright who put this mythical dichotomy together, was influenced and inspired by his work with playwright August Wilson, who was interested in creating a body of plays to help African Americans more fully embrace the African side of what he described as their “double consciousness.”

The two brothers argue continually as Ogun meticulously goes about his work and Oshoosi just as meticulously avoids it. But when his resistance falters, Elegba hovers in the background to stir up controversy and remind them of their forlorn past.

From time to time the three hurtle into a stylized African stomping dance, galumphing around the stage to Peter Bayne’s vivid drumbeats and musical compositions. Metal rods and steel drums, which comprise the “props” onstage,
are used to accompany the music or to emphasize a point.

The Brothers Size is directed by Shirley Jo Finney, who recently won her second Ovation award as Best Director of 2013 for her direction of In the Red and Brown Water, the first of Tarell McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays. The Brothers Size is the second play in this trilogy, and although the same characters appear in all three, McCraney contends that each play can stand alone.

The Brothers Size is a tale of dreams, fantasy, and brotherly love that has obviously gripped the imagination of Los Angeles theatergoers. On a recent Sunday afternoon every seat was filled in the Fountain Theatre, and the public acclaim has caused the play, which was scheduled to close on July 27th, to be extended until
September 14th.

The Brothers Size plays Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 through September 14th at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Call (323) 663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com for tickets.

Photo: Theodore Perkins as Elegba, Matthew Hancock as Oshoosi, and Gilbert Glenn Brown as Ogun
Photo by Ed Krieger