Ryan Vincent Anderson, Jared McNeill, Dawn L. Troupe, Lakisha May, and Daveed Diggs in Tarell Alvin McCraney's In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company, Part One of The Brother/Sister Plays. Photo by Kevin Berne.

IN THE RED and BROWN WATER: Drama by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Part One of The Brother/Sister Plays Trilogy. Directed by Ryan Rilette . Marin Theatre Company (MTC), 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley CA 94941. 415.388.5208 or .



There are great expectations in the Bay Area with three theatre companies collaborating to produce Tarell Alvin McCraney’s trilogy of life in the mythical Louisiana Bayou town of San Pere. Marin Theatre Company (MTC) is first up with In the Red and Brown Water to be followed by The Brothers Size at the Magic and Marcus: The Secret of Sweet at A.C.T. The three plays follow sequentially with characters from the first play and/or their progeny appearing in the later ones. If the dynamic quality of MTC’s part one of the trilogy is maintained at the other theaters, the audiences are in for a memorable Fall season.

However, be advised to arrive at the theaters early to read the background of the authors purpose since he has been inspired by Federico Garcia Lorcas’s Yerma and he has taken the names of his characters from Afro-Christian mythology and each is endowed with mythological characteristics signified by that name.

Oya (Lakisha May) is the overseer of the wind and as the central character can run like the wind and is offered a college scholarship. Eleqba (Jared McNeill) is the messenger whose dreams become premonitions and it is his dream of Oya bleeding in the brown water and thus the title of the play. He is also a youthful trickster prone to being troublesome. Aunt Elequa (Dawn L. Troupe) the guardian of the crossroads is the stabilizing influence of those around her. Shango ( Isaiah Johnson) the god of thunder seduces Oya before joining the Army. Ogun ((Ryan Vincent Anderson) the god of iron is a working mechanic in love with Oya. The only white character called Man from State College(Josh Schell) doubles as a white storekeeper.

The play is a combination of present time action and surrealistic movement with a Greek type chorus that sings African chants, become a church congregation, dancers at a disco or what ever is needed. What makes this play memorable is the fantastic staging by director Ryan Rilette and the superb acting by the entire cast. An unadorned gray stage with the electrical equipment in full view has a central platform with steps on two sides that acts as Oya’s home. There is a two-tier bleacher back stage for the Greek chorus and great lighting to heighten the activity.

The construction of the play is linear but without distinct definition of time but one or two lines suggest a time shift or a simple scene implies a pregnancy has occurred and shortly a baby appears. Giving birth or the inability to bear a child is a deep-seated shadow over Oya’s life that the author has lifted from Lorac’s Yerma. The author uses a conceit similar to Word for Word where the actors verbalize the stage directions. Initially this is annoying but as the play progresses it adds much needed humor to the intense story line.

Lakisha May’s pivotal role is perfect as she moves from reality to near insanity. Jared McNeil as the trickster Elegba is a bundle of joy and surely will in the future be cast as Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Dawn L. Troupe dominates when it is her turn to take the stage. She has perfect timing between humor and seriousness and is the ultimate professional. Isaiah Johnson’s physical attributes exude sex with a minimum of words. Ryan Vincent Anderson’s understated demeanor reflects the non-flashy role assigned to him.

There are many sociological implications that make this play worthy but it is the dynamic interaction of the entire cast under Rilette’s direction that makes this Part I of The Brother/Sister Trilogy a must see production. Running time about 2 hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of