Percussive is the best word for The Brothers Size. Before the one-act play by Tarell Alvin McCraney even begins, you are immersed in the feverish drumming of onstage musician Jonathan Melville Pratt, who, accompanied by louder, recorded beats, fills the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre with the singular rhythm of the South. Once the story of two brothers in the Louisiana bayou country kicks in, the vibrations emanate from three young actors in top form: Joshua Elijah Reese and Okieriete Onaodowan as siblings Ogun and Oshoosi Size, respectively, and Antwayn Hopper as the mysterious Elegba, They appear, reappear and square off two at a time inside a circle of white chalk. Oshoosi, just out of prison, wants to forget his past and change his course while in the grip of dangerous impulse and the influence of Elegba. Ogun, who fixes cars, wants to fix his brother but has no idea how.
The Brothers Size, directed by Tea Alagic, is ultimately about love, but it’s difficult to make an emotional connection with Ogun and Oshoosi. Possibly the parameters– actors announce their arrivals and departures, and they improvise (though inventively) on a stage without props – remind us that, as in a Brechtian world – we are watching a play and as such not completely given over to these characters.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.