Theater Review: Howard Steven Frydman
aka “The Howard
Production: American Son
Playwright: Christopher Demos-Brown
Director: Rob Ruggiero
The Howard’s Exhale – “American Son” – an absorbing, complex drama – a rain of tears at every turn!
“The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop at late or early hour”. Tic tic tic, like an over wound clock – a family’s reality is ready to explode in this racially charged- tension-filled production taken directly from today’s headlines. “American Son” is currently being produced at the newly renovated TheaterWorks in downtown Hartford – and just like the theater’s new urban environment – we characteristically state its depiction of a family in crisis is “well-designed, rich in complexity, bold, thought provoking”, and so “true to life” that at plays end it will surely leave one with tears in your eyes.
As they say – “there is no place like home”, and like so many, we could hardly wait to return to one of our favorite theaters- TheaterWorks. Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero and staff have done one heck of a fine job in updating and enhancing the “Playhouse on Pearl”. We are mighty proud of the theater, their outstanding new Pearl Street showcase, and this amazing first production of the 2019-2020 season, “American Son”, written by Christopher Demos-Brown, Directed by Rob Ruggiero, and starring, in what can only be expressed as stoic “heart-wrenching” performances; Ami Brabson, J Anthony Crane, John Ford-Dunker and Michael Genet. TheaterWorks has pulled out all the stops in this 34th season opener!
“American Son”, winner of the prestigious Laurents/Hatcher Award, had its world premiere in 2016 at the Barrington Stage Company, in Pittsfield, Mass., with its official Broadway opening in 2018 taking place at the Booth Theater starring Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale. In September 2019, the play was adapted for a featured film, having its premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is currently scheduled for a November 2019 television release on Netflix.
Our local – Miami-Dade County Police Department, police sirens “politely” blare outside while approaching thunderclaps are a harbinger of the tragedy that will soon unfold. A wall clock silently decries the early morning while the absurdity of a Dunkin’ Donuts box beckons in the police station’s waiting area. Kendra Ellis-Connor, (Ami Brabson) an African-American woman, has been waiting patiently for details regarding her missing teenage son Jamal and their Lexus auto which harbors a bumper sticker that says “Shoot Police”. Both have been gone missing 8 hours previous. Details are slow to materialize, but we soon realize Jamal and two others who were with him have been pulled over – why? Within the 90 minute production of “American Son” we learn of this young man who has been taught, from a young age to respect authority, and an authority that only wants to teach us to “be quiet and just listen”. Kendra is soon joined by her estranged husband, Scott Connor (J Anthony Crane) an FBI Agent, who is white – who loudly demands that he see his son and be given details of his son’s arrest. During our mutual wait for details from inexperienced Officer Paul Larkin (John Ford-Dunker), and by-the-book community affairs liaison Lt. John Stokes (Michael Genet) we are provided thought provoking insights regarding this interracial couple’s marriage, family dynamics, and the black and white troubling times that surrounds us all.
Let me tell you that Ami Brabson is “SIMPLY SUPERB” as the agonizing mother, her strength of character, her travails, her anguish reach into the heart of each and every audience member, as we collectively lean forward in our seats to catch every word of her heart-wrenching dialogue-bravo Miss Brabson. We also appreciated the brilliantly dramatic performances and oh so realistic realizations of J. Anthony Crane and John Ford-Dunker. Mr. Michael Genet – you sent chills down my spine as the dispassionate, steely eyed Lt. Stokes- a wonderful interpretive performance. Lastly, we send much appreciation to Director Rob Ruggiero for bringing this thought-provoking, heart wrenching production to a Connecticut audience – you sir are a beloved “Icon” of theater that we all appreciate! We love the refreshed TheaterWorks and enthralled by the talent of “American Son” within. Enjoy!
“American Son“ is currently being produced at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. For tickets or info call TheaterWorks at 860.527.7838. Run Dates: October 18 through November 23, 2019
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.