Theater Review: American Son

Rod Brogan and  Almeria Campbell. Photo by Mathew Holler.
Rod Brogan and Almeria Campbell. Photo by Mathew Holler.
Dennis Maley
SARASOTA — Christopher Demos-Brown's American Son takes on the difficult topic of race and identity in a way that manages to offer a meaningful look at racial inequality that adds to the conversation without coming off as overly preachy or one-sided.

Scott and Kendra are a mixed-race couple struggling through a failed marriage as their 18-year-old son searches for his identity as a mixed-race male whose angst and pain are not mitigated by an otherwise privileged Coral Gables life as a talented artist and athlete in an upscale private school.

Taking place in real-time over the course of a morning spent in a Miami police station, the play carefully examines a variety of perspectives on matters ranging from privilege and prejudice to an assertion of value versus strategies for survival in an unjust world.

Almeria Campbell gives a performance riddled with earth-moving intensity as the deeply-conflicted Kendra, a mother whose desire to raise a strong black son runs up against the pragmatic dangers that can accompany a failure to show pragmatic deference when the situation calls for it. 

Rod Brogan perfectly embodies her career FBI agent husband, a white man who sees his son leaning into his blackness as a dangerous liability to be avoided at all costs. Daniel Petzold gives a very solid turn as Officer Larkin, a newbie trying his best to walk the line between protocol and empathy, as he interacts with the couple.

In the final act, Lawrence Evans finally appears as the long-awaited Lt. Stokes, and that's when the sparks really fly. Demos-Brown, a Miami trial lawyer turned playwright, is clearly interested in looking at things like race, gender and the treatment of the other in the American legal system and does so with a fresh and informed perspective that may not provide answers but definitely instigates contemplation. 

Kate Alexander directs. American Son runs through March 22 at the Florida Studio Theatre. Visit their website for schedule and ticket info.

Reader Comments
FEB 02, 2020  •  In a tense, well acted play, Brogan stole the the show. He made it easy to love & hate him at the same time. Well worth a look!