By Beki Pineda
IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; directed by Dee Covington. Produced by Curious Theatre Company (1080 Acoma St., Denver) through April 18. Tickets available at 303-623-0524 or at www.curioustheatre.org.
A lonesome, rundown shack set on poles above the water of the bayou. A road runs in front leading both back to the house and, more elusively, away from the house and out into the world. In the fictional Louisiana neighborhood of San Pere, the small community’s inhabitants spend their days thinking of ways to get down the “away” side of the road.
The people in the cast are named for characters in Yoruba storytelling traditions. For instance, Oya (Kristen Adele) is the embodiment of the wind and turbulence. The first time we meet her, she is borne in aloft by the men of the village, arriving like bird from the heavens. Her gift and her ticket out of the poverty of San Pere is her speed, the running ability that moves her like the wind. Yemoja, the Earth Mother, is called Mama Moja (Jada Suzanne Dixon) and is Oya’s mother. The good boy and the bad boy always play parts in myth. In Yoruba, they are Ogun (Cajardo Lindsey), who loves Oya as a quiet, faithful, hardworking man, and Shango (Theo Wilson). The bad boy who is always so appealing in spite of our wiser selves, Shango seduces Oya with his blatant sexuality.
Oya’s only chance to find another way of life and flee the village is sacrificed when she chooses to stay in San Pere and take care of Mama Moha when she grows ill. Her life then becomes tangled in the density of village life; she remains of it yet literally lives above it, aloof and isolated.
The cast as a whole moves with a languid grace, creating an atmosphere of tropical heat and stultifying sameness. They seem to seek out trouble just to break the boredom. This is the first in a trilogy of plays called “the Brother/Sister plays,” about the inhabitants of this village and their lives. The second play, THE BROTHERS SIZE, will be given a short revival this summer for those of us who missed it the first time around at Curious. The third in the trilogy, MARCUS OR THE SECRET OF SWEET, will be produced as part of the 2015-16 season at Curious, allowing the Denver audience to see the series in sequence.
Each member of the cast contributes to the whole of the story. Kristen Adele as Oya provides the strong focal point upon which the story is built. Both her strengths and her weaknesses (especially as involves Shango) provide purpose and movement for the other people in the story. Theo Wilson as Shango is the good-looking snake that all the women covet. His confident “Hey, it is what it is” attitude proves hard to resist. Cajardo Lindsey, who can do no wrong in my book, plays the gentle Ogun with a hangdog expression and a quiet love that makes the audience question Oya’s choices. It will be fun to see how this Size Brother changes during the second play. Damion Hoover as Elegba, Oya’s friend and “little brother,” brings a quick smile and a mischievous wink wherever he goes as he slips in and out of the shadows.
Sound designer Jason Ducat has put together an appealing soundtrack for this production, featuring prison chants and a jubilant urban dance sequence.
WOW factor: 8.5