The local Tarell Alvin McCraney celebration continues as Plays & Players’ Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet joins Simpatico’s The Brothers Size (through Nov. 3) and Temple’s staging of the Brother/Sister Trilogy (Nov. 13-24), of which Marcus is the final play.
Director Daniel Student’s production of it here, however, does not communicate well the talents of McCraney, a recent MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient. The play unspools ponderously rather than poetically; the languid delivery may suggest Louisiana heat and humidity, but doesn’t drive the story. UArts graduate Erin Fleming plays the title role, apparently wrestling with the question of whether or not he’s gay — though his exaggerated mincing and pink hoodie leave little room for doubt. Best friends Osha (Taysha Canales) and Shaunta (Janan Ashton) push him to admit it. Uncle Ogun (James Tolbert III) knows that Marcus is “sweet,” but wants him to figure it out for himself. Great-Aunt Elegua (Zuhairah McGill) understands Marcus’ disturbing dreams about his absent father, but resists interpreting them. The issue feels stuck on repeat until Marcus meets Shua (Andre Brown), a black man supposedly from the Bronx (though his accent is as Southern as everyone else’s) who wants sex with Marcus “on the down-low.”
But it all unfolds in a torpor, with McCraney’s trademark spoken-aloud stage directions (as in Ogun entering while proclaiming “Ogun Size enters”) feeling more redundant than revelatory. Colin McIlvaine’s framework set evokes a decaying Louisiana town, though the platforms and walls feel far away from the audience. Rain effects and a roiling mist create some atmosphere — a storm coming — but the air between the characters feels sluggish and lifeless.
Through Nov. 3, $15-$30, Plays and Players, 1714 Delancey St., 866-811-4111, playsandplayers.org.