Fleetwood – Jourdain Theatre presents American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown, directed by Tim Rhoze, through November 12, 2022, at Noyes Cultural Arts Center at 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL 60201.
I am familiar with the 2019 film version of Demos-Brown’s Broadway play which starred Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale. The story was insightful and heart-wrenching. American Son highlights some challenges interracial couples and their bi-racial children face in America. Those from different backgrounds most times have to deal with scrutiny from society, but also realize that they too may have some bias and preconceived notions regarding the other’s ethnic group.
The story is about a black mother named Kendra Ellis-Connor who goes to the police station to request help finding her son. The white police officer assisting her has preconceived notions of the type of person her son may be. He automatically assumes that Kendra’s son is possibly a criminal or has a gang affiliation because of his race. Would the same questions be asked if the missing young man was white? Officer Larkin provides limited information on her son’s whereabouts until Scott, her white husband, arrives at the station wearing his badge. The officer is unaware that he is the father of the missing young man and immediately provides him with information regarding his son. Of course, we could assume that he gives Scott information because he’s white, but the fact that Scott is also wearing a badge could have made officer Larkin believe that he was working on the case.
For me, the story goes deeper. It’s not only about the treatment a Black Woman receives as opposed to that given to a White man. It’s about a bi-racial young man struggling to find his identity—straddling the lines between Black and white. Dealing with the pressure that his parents and society placed on him. What his parents may have considered rebellious was possibly him trying to identify with a culture that he felt his parents tried to strip from him. Although they wanted to shield him from experiencing what most black men face, they could not erase the fact that although he had a white parent, the world would still view him as a Black man and treat him as such. We will never learn Jamal’s perspective; however, we can assume that he was searching to find himself or figure out how to cope with the turmoil between his parents. Many aspects of this story can be discussed, including the fact that Lieutenant Stokes probably used his authority to prove that he was in control and not the other way around. The storyline is intense and essential when trying to understand race relations.
In this production of American Son, I felt an emotional disconnect. The timing was sometimes a bit off, and the performance of Alexandria Moorman (Kendra Ellis-Connor) was overly angry. The mother’s pain would have been believable with a bit of vulnerability. There seemed to be no chemistry between her and co-star Martin Andrews (Scott Connor). The entire cast emoting was flat at times. With a tense storyline, it was awkward to hear the burst of laughter during scenes that were supposed to be serious.
Overall, the storyline is what makes the production worth seeing. It was entertaining enough that I recommend it to those who live in the area and enjoy theater. For tickets, visit www.fjtheatre.com.
Run Time: 90 minutes without intermission
Photo Credit: Yancy Hughes