Oscar E Moore

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AMERICAN SON – in stark black and white at the Booth

November 24th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

This is not a great one act play.  It is a taut and timely play.  A play torn from the horrific racial headlines that we read daily.  And see nightly on the news.  And so it is predictable in its outcome.  From the onset.  With some gasp inducing offensive language.

Reminiscent of the late 50’s early 60’s TV drama The Naked City a police and crime investigative series based in New York City where the tag line was “there are 8 million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them,” playwright/lawyer Christopher Demos-Brown (Broadway debut) has set this somewhat documentary styled drama in Miami Florida, in a stark and pristine police station at 4 am as a thunderstorm pelts the glass enclosed waiting area; where a pensive Kerry Washington distraught and rapidly losing her patience with the young white officer Paul Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) on duty awaits hearing news about her son Jamal who has not returned home.  Nine hours missing.

She cannot reach him on his phone.  And that is so unlike her son.  This after they had an argument and he drove off into the storm.  She waits for her estranged husband Scott, an F.B.I. Agent to arrive.  He is white and Irish and played by Steven Pasquale.

Her name is Kendra.  She is a shaken, vulnerable and black.  A psychology professor who isn’t about to sit back and wait for news.  She wants information right now.

Which unfortunately is not forthcoming.  The polite but condescending officer Larkin citing protocol holds back awaiting the arrival of liaison Lieutenant John Stokes (Eugene Lee) who will facilitate communication between one and all.  He is an older black man.  And so the battle field is equally fortified or so it seems.

Racism, parenting and police procedure rear their ugly heads.  And the longest wait for a cup of coffee, ever.

Little by little we learn the back story of the couple’s marriage and their privileged teenage son Jamal who is rethinking becoming a cadet at West Point where his corn rows might cause some concern.  He wants to find himself and play guitar.  Dirty laundry is aired while awaiting that cup of coffee.

Eventually the car, registered to his dad, Mr. F.B.I. is located with a couple of other black guys along with Jamal – with an all-important bumper sticker that ignites the situation.

Fireworks ensue on stage at the Booth as tensions build becoming melodramatic under the direction of Kenny Leon, waiting for what you most probably will not be surprised with the revelations and outcome.

The only thing Kendra and Scott love is their son Jamal and the music of Thelonious Monk.

All four actors are excellent, especially Kerry Washington.

You might want to give a listen to some Monk to cool things down a bit.


Photos:  Peter Cunningham

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