Brotherly love in ‘The Brothers Size’


James Williams, Namir Smallwood and Gavin Lawrence star in ‘The Brothers Size’

This weekend marks the opening of Pillsbury House Theatre’s latest production, “The Brothers Size,” on stage at the Guthrie Theater through September 29.

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the play follows the struggles of two brothers as they try to renew their relationship after the younger one returns home from prison.

James Williams plays the part of the older brother, Ogun Size. He says the entire story boils down to unconditional love.

Anybody can love somebody when they’re doing good, the trick is – how do you give somebody what they need when they need it, and allow them space to be themselves. What happens when what I want for you isn’t what you want for you? And all the things I want for you are based in love.

Williams says the issue is a particularly sensitive one for African American men.

You don’t see representations of love between African American men on stage a lot – it manifests itself in our lives in a different way. There’s a trauma in a lot of our lives that goes all the way back to the plantation, where you don’t dare love anything because it can be taken from you at any given time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So we’ve come up with this manifestation of manhood, of how we think it’s supposed to work, that realistically covers years and years of trauma and pain… it’s not an excuse, it’s just there. And on top of that we’re in a society where we’re told men don’t cry, we end up having all these great feelings – we’re capable of writing great poems, making beautiful jazz, but one of the hardest things in the world is to look another being in the eyes and say I love you. And a big part of that is because I don’t know what that means – I can’t recognize it in you because I don’t know what it’s like in me.

Williams, who has starred in other work by McCraney, says he’s I’ve never run into a playwright that says more ‘in an ellypsis’ than he does. Williams says there’s a truth that rings out in what’s not said in as much as what is said.

Tarell Alvin McCraney is also the author of “In the Red and Brown Water” which Pillsbury House Theater staged in May of last year.

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