Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Broadway Review: Kerry Washington Gives An Intense, Fearsome Performance in New Play “American Son”


Kerry Washington is back on Broadway several years after her debut in David Mamet’s “Race.”

She returns as a major TV star from “Scandal,” but let’s not forget she’s already paid her dues and knows live theater. Her performance in “American Son” is non stop, ninety minutes of intense, fearsome rage for a teenage son who’s gone missing.

Kenny Leon directs Kerry, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan and Eugene Lee in this taut drama where you can guess the ending but don’t want to believe it. Kendra (Kerry)’s son with Scott (Steven Pasquale)– Jamal — is never seen but he’s at the center of the action. Educated in the best private school, Jamal’s parents (black and white) have counted on him not mixing with the wrong crowd in their native Miami and staying out of trouble. Alas, Jamal has been picked up the police with two friends whom the parents don’t know, and now they fear the worst.

Christopher Demos-Brown’s debut play addresses a lot of issues– empowerment, feminism, but most of all racism and what it’s like to be a black teen in America even if you have a white parent. Sort of a companion to the current movie “The Hate U Give,” this play addresses head on by name other black kids who’ve been shot at or killed by the police (Eric Garner, Philandro Castile and Tamir Rice are cited). Knowing that the police will play as the villain, Demos-Brown gives a veteran Black Police Lieutenant played by Eugene Lee who has some opinions worth hearing out.

At 90 minutes without intermission, “American Son” is slight and a little underdeveloped. Without a big star it would have been sent to off Broadway for development. But it’s timely and important, and the actors invest their all. Plus, you get a great set from Derek McLane, Tony level lighting from Peter Kaczorowski, and impressive rain and lightning. “American Son” just runs until mid January, so see it ASAP. It’s certainly a rich season for new plays. (You can get tickets for all of them at the TKTS booth in Times Square without waiting on line– at the special plays window.)

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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