Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Theater Review: The Brother/Sister Plays

The Brothers Size
Telling the Stuff of Life through the Senses
By Lauren Yarger
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s prose, spiritual songs, African rhythms and direction that enhances dreamlike storytelling combine to make The Brother/Sister Plays at the Public Theater a sensory delight.

The work, presented in two parts, combines three of McCraney’s plays about the African-American experience of a group of people living in the projects in the “distant present” of San Pere Louisiana : In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet.

In part one, directed by Tina Landau, we meet Oya (an effervescent Kianné Muschett) who gives up an athletic scholarship to stay with her dying mother Moja (Heather Alicia Simms). Her aunt, the non-nonsense Elegua (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) come to look after her when Moja dies, and doesn’t approve of the man in her life, Shango Sterling K. Brown), whose wandering eye won’t let him settle down and give Oya the baby she so desperately wants. Timid Ogun Size (Marc Damon Johnson) steps in when Shango leaves and offers her a life with him.

Landau creates physical mirrors in actors behind the action, moving, sighing and singing to create a dream-like quality to the story. James Schuette’s simplistic scenic design lighted by Peter Kaczorowski enhance the mood.

The second play, directed by Robert O’Hara, follows the story of the Size brothers, Orgun and Oshoosi (Brian Tyree Henry) and their friend Elegba (Andre Holland). This middle segment is the richest as far as character development. Orgun tries to help his recently paroled brother stay out of trouble, and when they have to part, the emotions are raw. In part 3, Elegba’s son Marcus (Holland) comes to terms with the fact that his father was "sweet" (gay) and with his own sexuality.

The performances of the principle actors, as well as the ensemble, many of whom play multiple roles in the saga, are strong and believable. McCraney’s storytelling devices of having the characters speak their stage directions as well as the too frequently used answer to a question, “How could he/she not?” grow tedious in the four and a half hours that make up the entire work, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise satisfying work. If you take out the sensory devices for telling the story, you’re left with a tale of a bunch of folks who make poor choices and have to deal with the consequences, which puts these tales into an “everyman” category, rather than just the genre of Afican-American experience.

The Brother/Sister Plays run Off-Broadway at the Public, 425 Lafayette Street, NYC through Dec. 20. For tickets, call 212-967-7555.

Christian might also like to know:
• Language
• Sexual dialogue
• Hoodoo
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sexual dancing
• Homosexuality
• Homosexual activity

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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