The future of the American theater does not rest entirely on the shoulders of Tarell Alvin McCraney. The 29-year-old playwright — a product of both a hardscrabble Miami childhood and a transformative education at the Yale School of Drama — warms to the question of where his rapidly accelerating career might be taking him. Mentions are swirling that McCraney may be the heir to the late playwright August Wilson.
Major theaters on both sides of the Atlantic are clamoring for his work. At the moment the University of Maryland School of Theater performs “In the Red and Brown Water,” the first work in McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Playstrilogy. Drawing on folk tales, Yoruba mythology and contemporary poets and playwrights to tell a coming-of-age story revolving around the struggle of a female athlete in a Louisiana housing project.
The main character, Oya, is a teenage sprinter looking for a way out of her limited circumstances. McCraney’s spare, muscular language and inventive approach elevates Oya’s ordinary life — and the lives of those around her — into a semi-mythic story of universally shared human experience.