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‘The Brothers Size,’ a Louisiana Tale of Family and Freedom

Published on March 05, 2020

‘The Brothers Size,’ a Louisiana Tale of Family and Freedom

RJ Dewar as older brother Ogun (left) and Kevin Insignares as younger brother Oshoosi (right)

"The Brothers Size" cast, which included two double-cast characters (four actors) who alternated performances.

Austin Washington as Elegba (left) and Karis Burke as Oshoosi (right)

RJ Dewar as Ogun

Karis Burke (Oshoosi) and Austin Washington (Elegba)

Kevin Isignares as Oshoosi (left) and JahDey Wright as Elegba (right)

RJ Dewar (Ogun) and Karis Burke (Oshoosi)

A heartfelt tale of two brothers navigating the murky waters of race and freedom is being performed at Eastern Connecticut State University through March 8. “The Brothers Size,” written by Academy Award-winning writer Tarell McCraney and directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams, is an African cosmology-inspired story of brotherhood set in the Louisiana bayou.  

stage Ogun Size is a hardworking mechanic who is tenuously reunited with his younger brother Oshoosi after being released from prison. The brothers clash over work ethic and life decisions, as Ogun scolds and attempts to steer his younger brother in the right direction. Matters are complicated when Oshoosi’s alluring former cellmate, Elegba, arrives at the auto shop, sending them down a collision course that probes sexuality, coming of age and the bonds of family.

Director Williams became enamored with playwright McCraney’s work after exploring “The Brother/Sister Plays,” a trilogy entrenched in Yoruba religious traditions. Of the three interconnected works, Williams wrote in his director’s notes, “‘The Brothers Size’ stood out to me as it tells the story of what it means to be black, questioning and finding freedom. It’s a ritualistic examination of the searing relationships among men, embracing the difficulties of race, poverty and misguided male identity.”

The humorous yet heartbreaking story is inspired by Yoruba cosmology, with the three characters taking the names and personalities of African gods (orishas). Williams explains that younger brother Oshoosi is known as the hunter in Yoruba tradition, who struggles with survival and grapples with the challenges of new-found freedom. Ogun, the god of ironworking, attempts to care for his brother with a philosophy of structure and order. Meanwhile, Elegba, Oshoosi’s former cellmate, represents crossroads and choices.

“McCraney offers a riveting story that questions the efforts of mass incarceration, societal reintegration and the impact of imprisonment on brotherly relationships,” writes Williams of the playwright.

JahDey Wright as Elegba

Something that stood out for senior Katelynn Scalia, dramaturg, was the play’s examination of “double consciousness”—a sensation in which one’s identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult to have one unified identity. “The Brothers Size” brings this topic to light through an unseen but remarked-upon character, the sheriff.

In the face of “the law,” Scalia writes in her dramaturgical notes: “These characters, and African Americans in general, must sustain a balance of doing too much and doing too little. Further, black men must mind their masculinity, upholding the notion of strength while avoiding being consumed by a variety of emotions. Limiting the range in which they are to express themselves places further burdens on being young, black and male.”

“The Brothers Size” features strong adult language and themes, and conveys its message through poetry, music and movement. The play is double cast with juniors Karis Burke and Kevin Insignares playing Oshoosi and seniors Austin Washington and JahDey Wright playing Elegba on alternating nights. Senior RJ Dewar plays Ogun.

“The Brothers Size” is running in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) DelMonte-Bernstein Studio Theater from March 3-8. Friday, March 6 at 6 p.m., will be a special performance featuring a pre-show reception at 5 p.m. in the FAIC Art Gallery. Immediately following the performance will be a post-show discussion with Isaiah M. Wooden, theatre scholar, director, dramaturg and co-author of the forthcoming book “Tarell Alvin McCraney: Theater, Performance, and Collaboration.”

The remaining shows include March 6 at 6 p.m.; March 7 at 7:30 p.m.; and March 8 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for the general public; $12 for Eastern faculty/staff/alumni; $5 for non-Eastern students and groups of 10 or more; and free for Eastern students. To purchase tickets online, visit For more information, contact the Box Office at (860) 465-5123 or email

Written by Michael Rouleau