‘The Brothers Size’ takes actors, audience out of comfort zone


Ogun, played by Tyee Tilghman (left), narrates a dream sequence in which Oshoosi, played by Biko Eisen-Martin (center), confronts a demon in the guise of Elegba, played by Joshua Jedidiah Myers (right). Photo by Ellie Haugsby.

Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer

Even though Chautauqua Theater Company is in the midst of running its production of William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at Bratton Theater through Aug. 19, its members also have found the time to put together a performance of a much different play called “The Brothers Size.”

The play, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is directed by directing fellow Patrick Walsh. It is the second play in McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays” trilogy and takes place in a mechanic’s garage in the bayous of Louisiana.

The show is at 7 p.m. Saturday in Studio B of the Brawdy Theater Studios, a Friends of CTC exclusive event. Anyone can become a friend at the Thursday afternoon Brown Bag lunches or at any of the shows. Friends planning to attend the show must call 716-357-6437 for reservations.

Walsh has assisted with CTC’s productions of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost” this season, but this is the first CTC show he has directed on his own.

Along with Walsh, three other CTC members were needed to put on the play: Tyee Tilghman, Biko Eisen-Martin and Joshua Jedidiah Myers.

“I brought up several plays with me that I was hoping to work on while I was assisting,” Walsh said. “I showed them to Biko and Tyee, and they said, ‘We should do a reading of this.’ We are really doing it on our own time. The four of us have become really passionate about the show.”

“The Brothers Size” follows three men — Ogun, Oshoosi and Elegba — as they struggle to find their place in the group and to understand their own feelings, sexual tensions and the memory of Ogun’s and Oshoosi’s mother.

While the actors all will have their lines memorized, there will be a minimal set and props.

“It’s going to be very simple, but it’s also to let the language and the words take precedence and the actor moving in space versus having all this accoutrement, which in this play I don’t think we really need,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be illustrative of the place that these stories originated in.”

The characters in this trilogy are taken from Yoruba mythology, using cultural traditions not typically featured on stage, Walsh said.

“Tarell gives voice to a culture that is usually marginalized by a lot of popular entertainment, and he doesn’t put them down,” Walsh said. “This is how these people live, and the fact that he bases it in a very ancient and beautiful religious practice, I think makes it even more interesting.”

Walsh said the major themes make “The Brothers Size” relatable.

“It’s just amazing how much people who are not African-American take away from it,” Walsh said. “A fallacy is that they have nothing in common with these characters, when in fact there’s so much about brotherhood and the slippery term ‘family.’ What is family? What makes a brother a brother?”

Conservatory member Tilghman plays Ogun, the older brother, and said he can see why he was cast in this role.

“I would see myself being cast as an older brother because, even in terms of vocally, my voice sits a little bit lower, physically; there’s something grounded in the way in which I am,” Tilghman said.

He said working on this production has taught him not just about acting in this sort of role but also about the relationships in his own life.

“There are things that you can learn not just as an actor, but bettering myself as a human being through acting,” Tilghman said. “Seeing the way in which these two gentleman interact and then looking at my relationship in my life with my own brother and our friend — that’s such a huge part of this show is that push and pull between Ogun, Elegba and Oshoosi.”

Conservatory member Eisen-Martin plays Oshoosi, the younger brother to Tilghman’s character. He said he feels audiences who come to see this play will benefit from it in more ways than one.

“I think particularly, the folks that might not be familiar with this community are just going to get exposed to a side of the world that they might not have ever seen before, and that’s not typically seen in the theater,” Eisen-Martin said. “We’re dealing with poor black people and working-class folk who are, in what we have coined, the struggle. Just being able to get an eye in on that is just to see a different side of the world…They’re not just here to work or be the boogie monsters that we see on the news. They’re actually real people with real problems.”

Oshoosi is far less mature in dealing with his emotions, and Eisen-Martin said this inability to deal with feelings leads to physical release.

“There is a lot of intense physicality in this show,” Eisen-Martin said. “My character, more than a lot of characters I’m used to playing, doesn’t really say how he’s feeling; he more shows how he’s feeling. His language is very choppy, it’s very juvenile, but the issues he’s grappling with and what’s really happening under is very complex. He has some beautiful monologues in there.”

General Management Associate Myers plays Elegba, Oshoosi’s friend from jail. Myers said the role has forced him out of his comfort zone.

“I have never played a character similar to Elegba,” Myers said. “It’s kind of a stretch, and I’m really pushing myself to get out there and get into that mindset. I’ve always been typecast as an intellectual or some type of villain, but no one from jail.”

He said he hopes audiences can gain a sense of what it’s like to be different from seeing this show, not just on a racial level, but through seeing the struggles the men face.

“I hope that they just get a glimmer of what it’s like to be someone different. It’s such a beautiful story, and there’s all the major themes that come into playwriting,” Myers said. “There’s a little bit of romance, there’s action, lots of drama, lots of comedy … a unique blend and balance.”

“The Brothers Size” is open to Friends by reservation. The play’s language, content and themes are of an adult nature.