By Stephen Weir
The Brothers Size is the latest production that stars black performers who are putting the Soul back into Soulpepper Theatre big time. This revival of a Deep South classic play has been such a roaring success since opening May 4th that the downtown theatre has told the Caribbean Camera that the play is being held over to June 1st to try and accommodate the demand from patrons.
The play stars three accomplished Toronto actors Mazin Elsadig, Daren A. Hebert and Marcel Stewart. The trio brings the smoldering anger that sweeps over the standing room only audience with a blanket of racial resentment.
The lone prop on the stage in the round is a car wreck sunk up to its door handles in the muck of a Louisiana bayou. The actors crawl in and out of the vehicle while they tell their story of social injustice, crime, friendship and family.
Depressing yes but oh so moving, the 90 minute long drama is set in a part of America where many black people fear to go – the Deep South. This is the part of the US where white people are regretful that slavery ended. Even the black sheriff who runs the town hates “coloured” people.
Two brothers, different as mud and water, are reunited when the younger brother is paroled out of jail. Ogun Size (Hebert) is a hard working straight arrow owner of a car repair shop. His heart is heavy over concerns for his trouble prone happy-go-lucky little brother.
Oshoosi has moved in as part of his probation guidelines. They clash as Bro-1 tries to make Bro-2 keep his nose clean by staying at home and working hard in the garage. Following the straight and narrow is a battle which Ogun seems to be winning to do until Elegba, Oshoosi’s old prison-mate (and probable lover) shows up with a car, a bag of dope and a self-destructing personality.
The Brothers Size is loosely based on Nigerian Yoruba myths, hence the African names and the live throbbing percussion music performed on stage by Ghana/Bermuda composer Kovena Aqua-Harrison.
The play is short on detail but long on nuance. What is making Brothers Size the talk of the town are the three seasoned actors who are selling out the play six nights a week.
Elsadig is a Sudanese Canadian who has starred in the Disney movie “Jump In” and spent two seasons on the Canadian series Degrassi he also appeared in other Toronto plays including Obsidian Theatre’s “Late.” Hebert was born in Bermuda and served in the Bermuda Regiment before turning his sights on acting. Hebert has appeared in several SoulPepper productions and at Stratford among many other stage assignments. Born in Bristol, England in the UK Marcel Stewart was raised in Scarborough, Mississauga, and Brampton. He last appeared at Soulpepper in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Father Comes Home From the Wars: Parts I, II, III.
The play, written by American playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney 20-years ago, is showing for the first time Toronto. An unkown when McCraney wrote this play, he is now a famed Hollywood script writer. Winning an Oscar in 2017 for Moonlight.
You might not expect a twenty year old play to do well, but this tale which explores the extraordinary task of growing up black south of the Mason-Dixon line is depressingly crisp and contemporary as it was when it first debuted on stage in the UK. Be prepare to leave the theatre, angry at the story but grateful for the experience of seeing this play out on a Toronto stage. Even Drake showed up SoulPepper’s on opening night.
#Caribbean Theatre # Black Theatre# Theatre Review#Black Toronto#Caribbean Toronto