Sunday, December 9, 2018

American Son

American Son
Booth Theatre
December 8, 2018

Photo courtesy of American Son
In his play, American Son, playwright Christopher Demos-Brown brings emotional depth and a broader perspective to the harsh realities of our present day social struggle and racial divide.  Director Kenny Leon builds the dramatic tension while the main characters revisit the misunderstandings and betrayals in their marriage during a highly vulnerable event.  The distance between this newly separated husband and wife starts with the difference in their race and upbringing, then shift to their egos, deep rooted fears, and unfulfilled expectations.  Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale are both riveting, delivering truthful performances grounded in a genuine sense of connection.   

Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, & Jeremy Jordan
Photo courtesy of American Son
It is 4:00 AM in a police station in Miami, Florida.  Kendra (played by Kerry Washington) is waiting, impatient, and emotionally drained.  Officer Paul Larkin (played by Jeremy Jordan) enters and informs her that he has no news on the whereabouts of her son Jamal, but can verify that his car was in a reported incident.  Protocol demands that she wait for the arrival of Lieutenant Stokes (played by Eugene Lee) for further information.  When Kendra’s husband, Scott (played by Steven Pasquale) shows up, Officer Larkin mistakes him for Lieutenant Stokes and proceeds to fill him in on the case.  Scott’s bureaucratic handling of the situation sends Kendra further into hysterics and generates arguments about their failed marriage and the raising of their son.  When Scott’s brother texts him a link to a video of a local police shooting, they become seriously concerned about Jamal’s well-being.

Kerry Washington & Steven Pasquale
Photo courtesy of American Son
Kerry Washington delivers a monologue in the first half of the show that exposes the deeply rooted fear her character has been unable to get her arms around since the birth of her son.  This is a powerful and truthful moment, and Ms. Washington delivers it with genuine passion.  Steven Pasquale’s response to this monologue succinctly illustrates the distance between the two characters.  It is not until there is evidence that their son could be in serious danger that his character rises to the realities of the situation and exposes his vulnerability.  The richness in Mr. Pasquale’s performance is found in the juxtaposition of his reserve and unanticipated emotional outburst.  These two actors vividly portray the unknown elements that exist between two people in a long term relationship, as well as the bond that unites them forever.   

Eugene Lee’s Lieutenant Stokes takes immediate control upon his arrival and brings a perspective to the situation that expands and deepens the truth and thematic strength of the play.  This is where playwright Christopher Demos-Brown transports the emotionally driven story into broader complexity, challenging your sense of right and wrong and presenting themes that strike the heart of every audience member.

American Son is a well written, well directed, and timely piece of theatre.  The performances are very worth seeing.  The ending is impactful and unexpected.  It is running at the Booth Theatre through January 27.  

Domenick Danza

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