American Son Review:
Some great performances come with elaborate costumes or attached prosthetic noses. Some involve crackerjack time or the flow of tears.
But the great performance that Kerry Washington presents in “American Son”, which opened Sunday at Booth Theater Broadway, does not present such a decoration. The only thing Mrs. Washington has to do when Kendra Ellis-Connor is to tear herself down for 85 minutes of growing agony as a mother whose son could have desperate problems.
Let’s add the word “black” to this sentence, because everything changes: “like a black mother whose child could have desperate problems.”
Christopher Demos-Brown’s “American Son” is part of a wave of new works taking into account the vulnerability of black youth in their relations with the police. But unlike Passover, Until the Flood, Kill Move Paradise and Scraps, the style is neither surreal nor poetic; This is the realism of tickling, deployed in real time. And the focus is not on young men or the police, but on trapped parents.
“American Son,” which proposes an opposite angle to the standard procedure, unfolds completely in the waiting room of a South Florida police station, where, in the middle of a stormy night, Kendra and her husband Separate, Scott, waiting for news of his 18 missing. one-year-old son, Jamal.
Scott (Steven Pasquale) is a F.B.I. agent. Is that why it’s much more efficient to expel information from Agent Paul Larkin, the police in charge? Or is it because of his apparent lack of hostility? Or because both men are white? In any case, Scott quickly learns that Kendra, who sees racism wherever he looks, can not.
The thing is, Kendra is right. The schematic configuration of the work allows Demos-Brown to demonstrate how the tendrils of prejudices slip everywhere, even in the cracks of a wedding. Scott, although he loves Kendra, is just not too worried when Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) the distraught describes it with phrases such as “the natives are restless” or says he goes “from scratch to the ghetto, Like nothing ever happened.”