Tall Tales: Curious Theatre Company’s “Marcus,” Reviewed

Tall Tales: Curious Theatre Company’s “Marcus,” Reviewed

“Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet” runs through December 19 at Denver’s Curious Theatre Company. Tickets here.

Curious Theatre Company’s “Marcus,” image Curious Theatre Company

Curious Theatre Company’s “Marcus,” image Curious Theatre Company

The third installment of Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister trilogy starts with another stunning moment at the Curious Theatre. You almost hold your breath as the rain falls from high and you lean up to confirm what you think is true—that Oshoosi Size is standing in a large pool of water right there on stage, getting soaked.

Soon you spot Marcus sleeping nearby and you realize it’s a dream—and Oshoosi makes his way off, ducking under a low ramp, his arms flapping oddly like a strange bird. He departs with a haunting howl. Or song. Or something. Eerie!

The first two entries in the trilogy, “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size” were stellar, memorable (that’s an understatement), and gripping. And the opening of “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet” reminds us of McCraney’s inventive storytelling style.

After the strong start, however, “Marcus,” doesn’t fare so well.

The acting is solid and the direction is powerful, but “Marcus,” by comparison with its companion entries, feels thin. The play involves a coming-out story for Marcus, a 16-year-old learning about his preferences and his place in the family and world. He believes that a better understanding of his father will give him a better sense of himself and his inclinations.

As Marcus, Damian Hoover gives the role his all, but the script leaves him, for most of the story, in a muddled state between uncertain and confused. He’s after answers, but the script doesn’t give the story, or Marcus, much traction. He’s tossed around and buffeted by those around him (including Oshoosi, over and over in the dream) and he doesn’t start driving the story until close to the end.

The scenes feel repetitive, but that’s not the fault of a good cast.

Curious Theatre Company regular Laurence Curry delivers powerful double duty as the haunting Oshoosi and the smooth-talking Shua, who comes on to Marcus. Brynn Tucker positively lights up the stage as Osha and Tanisha L Pyron is magnetic as Shaunta, the two girlfriends who circle around Marcus and try to uncover his secrets, though at times the script turns melodramatic, straight out of high school.

Cajardo Lindsey resurrects his role as Ogun Size, who brooded with such power and had big choices to consider in “The Brothers Size,” but “Marcus” undervalues Ogun (and therefore Lindsey).

There’s a storm coming (this is San Pere, Louisiana) in late August and the implication is something of Katrina proportions. The end of the play brings back the rain, pounding off the planks that cross the swamp, and there’s a fine scene of transformation / baptism near the end that finally brings some smiles. But what was the big risk for Marcus? Where were the tough choices? Osha’s mother Shun strongly prefers that her daughter keep distance from Marcus and Marcus’ mother Oha is hardly a fountain of information or useful advice, other than to pray, so Marcus’ best maneuver is to run and hide.

The first two entries in this trilogy carried heft and left you drained. Curious Theatre Company deserves major credit for tackling the work. “Marcus” echoes the other two, but doesn’t quite carry the weight

Mark Stevens, courtesy Cyrus McCrimmon

Mark Stevens, courtesy Cyrus McCrimmon

Editor’s note: Telluride Inside… and Out’s regular column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent. Mark was raised in Massachusetts. He’s been a Coloradoan since 1980. He’s worked as a print reporter, national news television producer, and school district communicator. Mark is the author of the Allison Coil Mystery Series—Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011), Trapline (2014) and Lake of Fire (due out in September, 2015). The series is set in the Flat Tops Wilderness in Western Colorado. Trapline won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for best mystery and the 2015 Colorado Author League award for best genre fiction. Mark Stevens’ new Alison Coil mystery, Lake of Fire, was published this year.

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