American Son – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

The police force in this country has evolved from the concept of citizen volunteers to night watchmen to southern slave patrols before it became what we know today: protecting and serving, enforcing the law, preventing crimes and preserving order. The relationship between the police and the citizens has not always been an easy one. Despite the fact that the police work on more than eight million criminal offenses each year, the public confidence has been called into question, especially on such issues as racial profiling. Just ask Kendra Ellis-Connor, a concerned and anxious Ami Brabson, whose eighteen year old son Jamal has disappeared and the Miami police are stonewalling her and not telling her what has happened and where her son is at the moment.

It’s 4 a.m. and you are invited to keep vigil with Kendra, a black professor of psychology, who knows her son has been involved in an “incident” but little more in the gripping drama “American Son” by Christopher Demos-Brown. The newly renovated TheaterWorks of Hartford will plunge you into her personal crisis until Saturday, November 23.

Jamal left his home after a spat of angry words with his mom, driving a Lexus registered to his white father, an F.B.I. officer, who is estranged from Kendra. With being a distinct minority at his prep school, furious at his father Scott, an absent J. Anthony Crane, for abandoning him, uncertain of his own identity, experiencing a personal awakening that is raising difficult questions, Jamal’s state of mind is under siege.

The police, first the newbe cop Officer Larkin, an unaccommodating John Ford Dunker, and later a more knowing Lieutenant Stokes, a control in your face Michael Genet, attempt to answer the parents’ probing questions. Where is their son? Is he alright? Can they speak to him? Why aren’t the police more open and forthright? The concern mounts and tempers flare as their questions are ignored and go unanswered.

Kendra and Scott share their frustrations that are fueled by a video discovered by Scott’s brother. The tension builds under Rob Ruggiero’s taut direction.

For tickets ($35 and up), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Hold onto the arms of the theater’s new ergonomic chairs as the uncertainties mount to a crescendo of fear.