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Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet

Curious Theatre Company completes its first project in "serial storytelling" with the regional premiere of the final play in Tarell Alvin McCraney's trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays. Following the stellar work of In the Red and Brown Water and The Brothers Size, director Dee Covington and the company's talented designers outdo themselves with selected elements from those productions as well as new wrinkles (Shannon McKinney and Chip Walton, co-scenic designers), including rain showers and a swamp, topped off with thrilling and heartrendering performances.

Brynn Tucker as Osha, Tanisha L. Pyron as Shaunta, and Damion Hoover as Marcus
Brynn Tucker as Osha,
Tanisha L. Pyron as Shaunta,
and Damion Hoover as Marcus
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Marcus (Damion Hoover), a 15-year-old youth, is having dreams about an unknown man and a coming storm of epic proportions (originally, a reference to Hurricane Katrina). His feelings toward other males confuse him. He wonders about his father and whether he was also "sweet." His best friends, Osha (Brynn Tucker) and Shaunta Iyun (Tanisha L. Pyron) don't understand at first. Marcus' mom, Oba (Jada Suzanne Dixon), is exasperated with Marcus' coming-of-age rebelliousness and his questions about his father.

Damion Hoover as Marcus and Sheryl McCallum as Elegua
Damion Hoover as Marcus
and Sheryl McCallum as Elegua
Photo: Michael Ensminger
"The boyz" in his class, Terrell (Isaiah Kelley) and Shua (Laurence Curry), harass him about being gay, driving him to seek answers from Elegua (Sheryl McCallum), a Yoruba theurgist of sorts. Orgun Size (Cajardo Lindsey), as the elder male, is a welcome sounding board for Marcus, giving a wide berth to his own painful past, and his long lost brother, Oshoosi Size (Curry), while Shun (Simone St. John) tries to keep Osha away from unsavory male influences ("the boyz").

As in the two previous installments of this tale, the ensemble builds on the lyricism and rhythms of McCraney's dialogue, which recalls the songs of Langston Hughes, morphing seemlessly from his smooth, captivating patios into evocative streams of movement (Covington is also a dance therapist) and soulful, a cappella spirituals that rattle our bones.

Laurence Curry as Oshoosi Size
Laurence Curry as Oshoosi Size
Photo: Michael Ensminger
As Marcus, Hoover captures the ennui, wonderment, and mischieviousness of a teenager, without sacrificing any of the maturity required to break the fourth wall and deliver insightful, mature commentary. As his mom, Oba, Dixon conjures archtypal measures of love, concern, and discipline. As Marcus' BFF, Osha, Tucker's girlishness is a delight, and her confusion and short-lived anger over Marcus' sexual identity is both poignant and funny.

Pyron has a blast as the brash Shaunta, pouring her heart onto the stage big time. McCallum taps into a deep seam of knowing that emotionally frames her pronouncements and breathes the air of authenticity around them. Curry stirs deep memories, with his dances in the swamp of an unknown spirit (Oshoosi Size), and lays on the charm of a street smart con man as Shua.

Cajardo Lindsey as Ogun Size and Sheryl McCallum as Elegua
Cajardo Lindsey as Ogun Size
and Sheryl McCallum as Elegua
Photo: Michael Ensminger
St. John embodies the matriarchal backbone of African American society in a story where all the fathers are all missing. Kelley swaggers as a big, bold gift to women in-his-mind-only, coming on to Osha despite her rejections.

Finally, Lindsey's Ogun, as the anchor to the trilogy, bears the weighty undercurrent—in his face, on his shoulders, and with his voice—like Ol' Man River, meandering through the tale, before he finally learns of his brother's fate.

All these elements are further amplified by Shannon McKinney's and Jason Ducat's light and sound.

Curious Theatre Company's presentation of Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet runs through December 19th. For tickets: 303-623-0524, the box office at 1080 Acoma Street, Denver, or www.curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows



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