American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its 2010–11 season with the West Coast premiere of Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet, directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker (A.C.T.’s The Rainmaker and the award-winning film Die, Mommy, Die!). In the final installment of McCraney’s trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays, which launched the first-time, three-theater partnership between A.C.T., Magic Theatre, and Marin Theatre Company (MTC), the barometer rises and the air below sea level closes in on a young black man, passionately seeking out his sexual and personal identity on a cultural landscape infused with mysterious family creeds.
Set in a housing project days before Hurricane Katrina strikes, Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet is filled with warmth, myth, humor, and Louisiana argot.
(See review Part 1: Theater Review: ‘In the Red and Brown Water’)
Because this is the first time that the trilogy is being presented by three different theaters (rather than in rotating repertory at one theater), McCraney was able to return Marcus to its original form as a two-act play, reintroducing scenes that showcase Marcus’s prescient dreams. This is the first time that this expanded original version of the play will receive a production. Marcus plays October 29–November 21, 2010, at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Opening night is Wednesday, November 3, 2010, at 8 p.m.
“Marcus is a play about coming of age. And for me coming of age is such a specific and singular moment,” says McCraney, whose The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy was hailed as “the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more” by the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a play, I know, we all can relate to, but I also know that the ride we go on in this play is specific to Marcus. And that’s why I love him and the play.” He adds: “Ever since I was young, I’ve been writing plays, sometimes little ones, that were basically about how you fit with people, how they fit with you, and how you fit in the world. These were questions that I always thought about growing up. And I’m still having a conversation with myself about them.”
Marcus is the first show Rucker is directing at A.C.T. in his new position as associate artistic director. He says: “The world, the writing, the dialogue, and the characters of Marcus are so compelling. The story of a boy coming out is very moving to me, and telling it in the frame and context of the world Tarell has created is something that I am proud of.”
A deeply personal play for McCraney, Marcus resonates beautifully on its own and also functions as a poetic and moving culmination of the trilogy. In the play, Marcus, one of the youngest members of the families that populate the first two plays of the trilogy, must come to terms with his own identity and, in McCraney’s words, “explore his thread in the tapestry of his community.” It is the largest in scope of the three plays that make up the trilogy and will receive an imaginative production on the beautiful American Conservatory Theater stage. The power of Marcus’s dreams will come to life with evocative video projections (designed by Alex V. Nichols) that transform the very simple set created by OBIE Award–winning scenic designer Loy Arcenas (Curse of the Starving Class and The Invention of Love for A.C.T.). The creative team also includes costume designer Lydia Tanji (who designed the costumes for the other two plays in the Bay Area trilogy), lighting designer James F. Ingalls, and sound designer Andre Pluess.
The cast features A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program class of 2011 member Richard Prioleau in the title role, alongside many other members of the A.C.T. artistic family: A.C.T. core acting company member Gregory Wallace; A.C.T. M.F.A. Program class of 2011 student Shinelle Azoroh; A.C.T. M.F.A. Program recent graduates Omozé Idehenre (who played Grusche in last season’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Nerine in this season’s opener, Scapin) and Tobie L. Windham III (who is also part of the cast of The Brothers Size, the second part of the trilogy, at Magic Theatre). Completing the cast are acclaimed Bay Area actress Margo Hall and Jared McNeill (who plays Elegba, Marcus’s father, in In the Red and Brown Water, the first part of the trilogy, at MTC).