It is no wonder the Public Theater (which co-produces the run with the McCarter Theater) has extended the engagement for an additional week. "The sales have been extraordinary," Public Theater executive director Andrew D. Hamingson told Playbill.com. "Between incredible word of mouth and stellar notices, we are thrilled with the recognition that Tarell has received."
McCraney's collaborators, directors Tina Landau (who helms In the Red and Brown Water) and Robert O'Hara (who staged The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet) also had praise for the ambitious writer who, incorporates his childhood experiences with myths passed down by family members.
Landau described working with McCraney as a radical new experience. "He possesses a well of wisdom that belies his age. He also has a clarity of vision, a confidence, which allows him to be utterly open and collaborative, contradictory as that sounds. Some playwrights are so attached to their one notion of how a thing should be – so afraid of other possibilities – that they close themselves to the wonderful chaos of the rehearsal room. Tarell embraces it."
"I thought it was a bold and fresh and audacious voice," O'Hara said of his first experience reading McCraney's work. "The idea of putting characters we don't usually see in the theatre, not only front and center but to form a trilogy of it was so ambitious and glorious on my first hearing of the entire piece."
In addition to bringing his singular voice to the stage, McCraney also participated in the rehearsals of his plays in unique ways. Landau explains: "He gets up on the stage with the actors and becomes one of the ensemble. Until we get to run throughs, he can usually be found not behind a table taking notes but up on the floor with the actors, creating movement, and helping me define the play-world by being in it. In Red and Brown, which uses only buckets on stage, Tarell had his own dedicated bucket he worked with. The stage managers put a big piece of tape on it reading, 'Tarell's Bucket.' When we did Wig Out!, there were three female characters called the Fates – a kind of Greek Chorus meets Girl Group - and in rehearsal Tarell would often be found on stage as the 'Fourth Fate' – and I mean, wearing his stiletto heels and all. I love working with Tarell because we're not bound by any rigid roles; we simply go into a room and play together."
The Brother/Sister Plays Part 1 & Part 2 run through Dec. 20 at the Public Theater.