There’s something beautiful happening over in the Trustus Side Door Theater right now, and I’m afraid you’re going to miss it. Director Chad Henderson skillfully brings us The Brothers Size, part two in the Brother/Sister plays by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Part One, In The Red and Brown Water, was performed on the mainstage at Trustus last season and also directed by Henderson. Each play in the trilogy is linked, but can also easily stand on its own. This particular production is a gem, the kind of show that leaves you feeling like you’re a little bit better off for having seen it; your eyes now wider and your heart a little more open. It’s theater at its best and it’s happening in your city.
From the moment I walked into the intimate Side Door Theater, I felt like I was transported to the Louisiana Bayou. The sound of cicadas fill the air, and butterflies in illuminated jars (tap on one and you’ll get a surprise) rest on simple but effective stage pieces designed by Kimi Maeda (a JAY visual artist nominee for 2015). The lighting design by Chet Longley and the sound design by Baxter Engle effectively complete the scene.
The seating is in the round and in this case that means you are part of the stage. There is something magical about being so close to the performers. The energy exchange between the actors and the audience takes things to another level, especially with actors as talented as these. The characters in the play are named after and based off of deities in the Yoruba religion, which originated primarily in southwestern Nigeria. Ogun Size (Jabar K. Hankins) is a hardworking mechanic who shows tough love to his troubled younger brother Oshooi Size (Christopher “Leven” Jackson) who has recently been released from prison. Oshooi’s friend and ex-cellmate Elegba (Bakari Lebby) is the unknown quantity that sets the play in motion. All three actors are skilled, passionate, and do excellent work here. The raw emotion in Hankins' eyes broke my heart in such a beautiful way, another benefit of being in such an intimate space. The actors tell a highly relevant story to our contemporary moment, examining confinement, freedom, loss of innocence and family. As I stood to leave I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Henderson has created a very physical, very alive piece of work. He has a unique perspective and a talent for creating moments where music and movement come together harmoniously. He and his cast create a story rich in rhythm and beauty.
I urge you to go see this show, not only because it is good but because if we support it then we can have more things like it. And I, for one, want more things like it. Get your tickets now; the show runs through October 31st.