Plot and Themes
As Kendra, who is black, waits anxiously for news of her son at the police station, it quickly becomes clear through her interactions with the young, white, and inexperienced police officer on duty that the service she receives, perhaps only unconsciously, is due to her race. When her estranged husband Scott, who is a white FBI officer shows up, his preferential treatment serves to make the audience wonder further whether the disconnect was indeed only about race, or if gender and an impression of authority play into their experiences as well.
Playwright Christopher Demos-Brown said, “There is no point in not making a point. I want to get under your skin.” Through beautiful storytelling and a discussion guide in the back of the playbill to help viewers engage more deeply with the content, the goal of this production is to “improve conversations about race, racism, and the criminal legal system in [America]…to foster productive conversations, better understanding, and concrete solutions after viewing the play and in other situations.”
Poignant scenes bring to light the existence of ongoing racism and sexism, even for people who have high levels of education or who would otherwise assume themselves to be free from the possibility of being overlooked or treated unfairly.
Rave reviews by Vanity Fair, the New York Times, and many other publications mirror the unanimously positive responses on social media to this play and its ability to move the audience and address uncomfortable questions.
Online responses ranged from white viewers expressing a deepened understanding of the tense situation between law enforcement and black youth to general awe at Washington’s compelling performance. Kenny Leon, the show’s director, said that Washington had “the rawest performance I have ever seen by the actress on stage – she was trust personified”
The topic and performances were so gripping that in January 2019, Netflix announced that it would be adapting the play into a film starring the same actors.
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The American Son Experience
A moving and compelling performance which sheds light on important and often-undiscussed issues, American Son is a show that will leave you speechless, inspired to have important conversations, and challenged to see the world differently.