George Street’s ‘American Son’ Stirs Raw Emotions in Complex, Provocative Drama

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Anyone who has the opportunity to head to George Street Playhouse will be stunned, shaken and haunted by “American Son,” this beautifully written play by Christopher Demos-Brown. 

Directed by David Saint with a distinct sense of the heartache and emotion that takes place, it is superbly performed by four fine actors.

Suzzanne Douglas is familiar to George Street audiences for her searing roles in “Wit” and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” among others. But her chiseled beauty is no match for the devastation she feels as Kendra in this high powered drama. It appears that her son, Jamal, has been stopped by police in his father’s Lexus. When her husband, Scott Connor, appears, we realize this is an interracial marriage, with all the complications that implies. They are now separated, but still have a lingering fondness for each other. 

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John Bolger as Scott, an FBI agent, moves from a rational individual to a demanding, angry parent when he realizes their son could be in a life or death situation. Bolger may also be familiar to GSP audiences from “Outside Mullingar,” “Good People” and “Twelve Angry Men.” 

Trying to calm the waters is Officer Paul Larkin (Mark Junek), new to the police precinct and doing his best to understand their need to know what has happened to their son.

Mark Kenneth Smaltz as Lieutenant John Stokes, black like Kendra, reasons with the parents as he explains what the police have learned about the car that was found at 1 a.m. in the morning. When Jamal’s father learns his son had put a sticker on the car’s bumper that says ‘Kill Cops,’ he recognizes the red flag that could incur further confrontation.

The entire 90-minute production is an emotional roller coaster ride, as each of us can identify with the fear if a family member or close friend is missing. In this highly charged drama, there’s a clear message that black people are treated differently than white people in our polarized society.

The stark set by Jason Simms  and glaring lights b Tyler Micoleau provide little comfort to the worried, frustrated parents.  Sound design by Christopher J. Bailey is especially stunning in the final moments of the play.  

“American Son” is indeed a play for our times. Messages written by audience members in the reception area off the lobby attest to people’s hunger to put love and kindness before hatred and to hope for a better, more accepting world for our children.

Anyone who can walk, drive or ride to this production should do so. It’s a play that will haunt you, stay with you and search for solutions to our society that becomes increasingly polarized.

“American Son” continues through Feb. 26 at George Street Playhouse on Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. For tickets, call 732-246-7717 or visit GSPonline.org.

Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for Tapinto.net, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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