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Director From Ford’s Theatre Headlines New Play at Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre

(Updated at 12:20 a.m.) 1st Stage may be a little theater in Tysons, but it’s drawing some big attention from the regional theater world.

The play “The Brothers Size” by Tarell Alvin McCraney will open on Thursday (Jan. 31). The play will be directed by José Carrasquillo, the director of artistic programming at Ford’s Theatre in D.C.

The play follows two brothers, as a hardworking man in the Louisiana bayou struggles to reform his brother, who was recently released from prison.

Currently the chair of playwriting at Yale School of Drama, McCraney achieved widespread acclaim after “Moonlight,” a movie he co-wrote and that was based on one of his plays, won the Academy Award for Best Picture last year.

“It’s a really stunningly beautiful, very tight three-person drama,” said Alex Levy, artistic director at 1st Stage. “It’s poetic and gripping and very funny. It’s a wonderful introduction to his world if folks are unfamiliar.”

Carrasquillo said he connects with the play on a very personal level. Like many of the characters, and like McCraney, Carrasquillo is a gay man and an artist of color. Like much of McCraney’s work, “The Brothers Size” tackles themes of machismo and differing views of manhood and sexuality in black communities.

“It’s been quite an exhilarating journey for me,” Carrasquillo said. “I’m a huge fan of the cultural spirituality that is inherent in everything he writes. I’m from Puerto Rico and can relate to a lot of that kind of religious and structure and deities… There’s a lot of feelings you have to keep to yourself, so in a way you have to live a double life because it’s seen as a sign of weakness.”

Carrasquillo said he’d been wanting to make the trip out to Tysons to work on a play for some time, and when Levy proposed directing “The Brothers Size” it seemed like a perfect fit. While Tysonians are predominately white and affluent, Carrasquillo notes that the region as a whole is diverse

“How do we bridge this? Because this community for this theater, they have embraced [Levy] and the work they do, but this feels like something really different than what they’ve seen,” Carrasquillo said. “I’m really hoping to have that dialogue with this community.”

“Theaters largely attract people that can afford that kind of ticket, but this is a very affordable theater,” said Carrasquillo. “This is a professional, young, hip community that come and support the work [at 1st Stage]. Those are people that will challenge you as a director because they really know their pop culture and they expect you to rise to their level of interest.”

Levy said the play is particularly important in light of current national conversations about black identity in America and the criminal justice system.

“I think theater is one of the last places where we’ve really come together and celebrate empathy and living in the lives of the people who are not like us,” said Levy. “It becomes a really important opportunity for those who are not part of the African-American community and important in our diversifying community that we celebrate voices and experiences of all of our community.”

The 1st Stage Theatre is a black box theater with very little distance between the audience and the stage, which Levy says is ideal for this type of play.

“It’s inherently a very intimate show,” said Levy. “I love the way it fits into our space. It’s a show where all three actors are on the stage throughout the show and are very connected to the audience. Having a space where the performance is so close to the audience is what really attracted me to the play.”

The play stars Gary-Kayi Fletcher as Ogun Size, Thony Mena as Elgba, and Clayton Pelham Jr. as Oshoosi Size.

The play will run until Feb. 24. Performances for “The Brothers Size” are:

  • Thursdays — 7:30 p.m.
  • Fridays — 8 p.m.
  • Saturdays — 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Sundays — 2 p.m.

General admission tickets are $39, or $36 for seniors over 65. Students and military tickets are $15.

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