New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

American Son (Broadway)

From 50 critic and 363 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Relevant, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intense

About the show

A Florida police station in the middle of the night. Two parents searching for answers. Kerry Washington (“Scandal”) returns to the Broadway stage alongside Steven Pasquale  ("Junk") in this unflinching new drama.


Marking the Broadway debut of playwright Christopher Demos-Brown and directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon ("A Raisin in the Sun," "Fences"), "American Son" offers a look at who we are as a nation, and how we deal with family relationships, love, loss, and identity. 

1h 30m | Already closed | Booth Theatre (Midtown W)

Front Row Center

"A play that will stay with you...Demos-Brown has written a play that takes a pick-axe to our identity as a country...Washington and Pasquale take on the challenge of performing mutual open heart surgery on one another...Leon’s use of silence and simplicity fuels the raw situation better than any stormy display could.” Full Review

City Cabaret

“Leon directs with his usual taut hold on the play's intent, his understanding of the characters and the distinctions between them, particularly the prevalent racial divide. The relationships between a black mother and a white father, between police and community, between experience and inexperience are key here. The cast members are all in firm control of their characters and the specificity of Demos-Brown's book.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Leon directs the excellent ensemble, wherein each character gets caught up in the maelstrom of racial conflict, stereotyping, and prejudice...'American Son' transcends color, expressing the anguish all mothers endure for their sons in danger. It’s primal, it’s devastating, and when we witness it on stage, it cuts right to the core...Nor will we forget Kerry Washington and her heartbreaking performance." Full Review

The Observer

"TV actress Kerry Washington is superb in a role that plunges her into every imaginable checkpoint on the emotional scale, but it’s the ideas that come at you with a fast and furious frenzy that will escort you out of the theater dazed...Acted with dexterity by a great cast, directed with economy by Kenny Leon, and written with knowledge and sobering humanity by Christopher Demos-Brown...A profound and unforgettable evening at the theater that challenges the mind." Full Review

Melinda's Malarky

"A potent social message...There are several strong messages driven home...There is no routine traffic stop for men of color and the world is not the same for whites and blacks. There are many subtle & overt racist comments spewed from all parties that strike like a lightning rod...When the facts are read to Kendra & Scott by Lt. Stokes the pain is piercing yet it leaves lingering doubts as to the culpability of the officer involved. The play is stirring drama with a superb cast." Full Review

The New York Times

"This is the director Kenny Leon’s best work to date: incisive and breakneck...These are big but nuanced performances...'American Son' is not a subtle play; it barely feels like a play at all. With its unrelentingly high tension on every level — maternal, marital, societal — it’s more like a slice of a nightmare, with few contours despite its surprises." Full Review

Broadway News

"Taking the racing pulse of these jittery times with such head-on forthrightness is what gives the play its powerful, ultimately shattering charge...The play is not always subtle, but in that sense it also mirrors the reality of living in a dramatically polarized America...The actors keep even the more forced or digressive passages from falling into obvious grooves...'American Son' derives its depth of feeling primarily from Washington...The sheer force of her performance has a powerful effect." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Washington gives a totally riveting performance in Christopher Demos-Brown’s taut, intermission-less play that intensely builds toward its climax in real-time. It is sternly trying to depict a recurring problem in America, but spins the tale via dramatic portraits and confrontations rather than by sermonizing. Under Kenny Leon’s sizzling direction, this is an unrelieved, high-tension drama with a stalwart cast that never falters." Full Review


"A microcosm of the ravages of race relations in this country. Everyone's good, but there are no heroes in this compellingly provocative story...Demos-Brown does an excellent job of drawing us into the conundrum of race in America...All four characters come at the issues from very different perspectives; and under Leon's expert direction, we see how difficult it is to find common ground...Enhancing the production is an outstanding company of A-listers.” Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“A blistering, explosive play, a searing deep dive into systemic and institutionalized racism in contemporary America...All four actors give dynamic, honest performances, led by Washington...‘American Son’ wisely avoids clichés and melodrama, although there is some emotional manipulation, but it’s easy to look past that and immerse yourself in the onstage dilemma — and wonder what you would do." Full Review


"The exceptional performances of the four people involved raise the bar here...The proceedings may not feel all that new, but the story certainly reflects today’s grim news, and the evening of sterling performances grounds the show to sustain one’s interest. It might make some people uncomfortable, but if you are a theater lover, you should put this down as a must-see show." Full Review


"The tension builds for 90 minutes, and when the inevitable ending comes, it is devastating...I believed every moment of Scott and Kendra’s horrible night and felt all the pain of wanting to save your son—and being helpless to do anything...This powerful play manages to avoid lecturing and let the humanity, pain and confusion of the parents teach us all we need to know. Washington and Pasquale are superb. Don’t miss them." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“The action takes place in real time. The tension steadily builds until the sudden shattering climax. It’s a play that grabs your attention and never lets go. What it lacks in artistry and subtlety, it makes up for in audience involvement. The choice of a story about a mixed-race son may add dimension to the plot, but the distinction between mixed-race and black is not significant to the police. The acting is uniformly strong...The direction by Kenny Leon is brisk." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

"The timing could not be more apt for a Broadway theatre to offer a play that puts race at its centre...Demos-Brown spins various themes and sympathies, all underpinned with the churning dread surrounding the fate of the missing teenager. Director Kenny Leon’s exceptionally tense production maintains the constantly shifting dynamics between its four characters with ease and the production is driven by the impassioned distress and intensity of Washington’s performance." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"A thoughtful, tension-filled 90 minutes. It is a play about race, yes, and about the assumptions we make about people. It is also a play about misunderstandings, inadvertent and willful, inconsequential and potentially fatal...Kenny Leon paces this taut production more like a thriller than a polemic...'American Son' is most affecting when it is personal, not political...There is, contained within 'American Son’s' lean script, much to discuss after the curtain falls." Full Review

Florida Theater On Stage

"What Demos-Brown wrought on the page is a fusion of the intense racial issues with the universal terror of parents struggling to prepare a teenager to graduate into an antagonistic and unforgiving world. With those two elements intertwined and acidly eating into other, 'American Son' produces a far more complicated tale than simply an emotion-suffused polemic about overt and subtle manifestations of racism in the 21st Century." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Deep inside this tightly crafted 100 minute play, we can barely find a moment to look away from this fast-moving automobile...It falters in scope and speed at moments, here and there, struggling awkwardly to shift gears and directions with each new driver, but as directed with skill and precision by Kenny Leon, the vehicle never stalls or drops below the speed limit...That last 15 minutes of that slightly too drawn out evening of a short one-act play is worth the wait." Full Review


"Director Kenny Leon has assembled a solid creative workforce...It’s hard to take your eyes off Washington’s Kendra, whose anguish seems to have taken over her entire body...Playwright Demos-Brown is a clever phrase-maker, and he delights in using language that vividly illustrates the social and educational gulf between Larkin and Kendra...A play that’s probably a bit too small for Broadway and a bit too narrow to throw a long shadow, but still manages to get under your skin." Full Review

AM New York

"It deserves much credit for addressing difficult but important societal concerns with thoughtfulness and empathy — and for being able to rouse such intense reactions...At its best, 'American Son' is smart, mysterious, and engrossing — not to mention an effective star vehicle for Washington, who gives a revealing, sympathetic performance...That being said, it can also feel thin in premise, didactic in tone, and one-dimensional in characterization." Full Review


"The play's social relevance might well have been enough to get it produced (especially in the past few months when we've witnessed a slew of plays about racism on our boards), but there can be no question that Washington's involvement led it to the Great White Way. Having gained superstardom through ABC's hit series "Scandal," Washington has wisely returned to Broadway after nearly a decade in a role that's 180 degrees from her TV alter ego Olivia Pope." Full Review


"Demos-Brown's provocative and timely play is a contemporary drama — a tense, realistic, and extraordinarily personal examination of our nation's racial division...The play, directed by Kenny Leon, makes no attempt to hide its agenda...Demos-Brown, a Florida trial attorney, writes what he knows but breaks no new ground and offers no solutions. This probably wouldn't have made it to Broadway without the imprimatur of Washington." Full Review


“Farmer: 'An effective, thought-provoking piece of theater...The play has a lot on its plate, too much perhaps, but feels very timely...It makes for a potent 90 minutes...The playwright seems more interested in starting a conversation than writing a play with a firm sense of what he wants to say'...Smith: 'This is some of Leon’s best work; I just wish he was working with better material'...Farmer: 'Far from perfect, but it feels like the right play at the right time.'” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"There is no denying the play’s emotional force. There are moments when you can feel hundreds of people all holding their collective breath. But though 'American Son' has the superficial form of a classical tragedy and a scene of raw suffering that few tragedies can equal, it also has a creaky dramatic structure, shallow characterizations, naïve politics and indifferent writing...A very powerful play without being an especially good one and that shouldn’t matter but sometimes it does." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"A couple of stagy but nonetheless head-turning 'surprises' notwithstanding, what happens thereafter is understandably predictable, since the purpose of the play is to dramatize and illuminate a story that has become all too familiar. What we have here, in short, is an earnestly meant, soundly made commercial stage drama of the kind that used to play Broadway regularly, one that is overly inclined to TV-type clichés but proves to be unexpectedly good about not stacking the deck." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"'American Son' vibrates with the urgency of a necessary conversation...Director Kenny Leon is only ever as good as his material, and in this case he's working with a drama more compelling in subject than execution. Christopher Demos-Brown's play undercuts its power with schematic writing a tad too heavy on speeches. Nonetheless, it remains involving and provocative...This is tense theater designed to shake up our complacency and make us think. In that aim, it succeeds." Full Review

Absorbing, Relevant, Riveting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if Want to be exposed to what it means to be a parent of a Black child in America

Don't see it if You condone the way that Black males are treated by the police in America

Riveting, Relevant, Profound, Must see, Absorbing

See it if You are moved by all the things that are happening the US today from guns to climate change to especially the plight of racism and bullying.

Don't see it if You have no desire to cry, be moved by the story and the incredulous performances by Kerry Washington, Jeremy Jordan and Steven Pasquale.

Also At the end of this almost two hour show without intermission, the ligh... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Cliched, Great acting, Edgy, Must see

See it if You want to be engrossed in a way you have never been by a theater production before. The show had a message that is so relevant!

Don't see it if You don’t have any interest in hot topics of culture. Also don’t see if you are insensitive to certain history and culture

Absorbing, Edgy

See it if Thought provoking drama

Don't see it if If you don’t like current racial issues

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Great writing, Intense

See it if It was extremely timely in light of the many police/African-American shootings happening today.

Don't see it if If you don't want to be emotionally upset by the racial incidents that occur during the play.

Intelligent, Masterful, Profound, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if ...every American should be required to see this show.

Don't see it if there are sensitivities around cops and/or shootings

Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to be confronted with some of the most difficult topics of our society

Don't see it if You’re not open to seeing imperfections in society

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intense

See it if You want to a simple show that has such great twists and turns and keeps you on the edge of your seat

Don't see it if YOu don't like talky dramas

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see effective portrayals of insipid prejudices, which all Americans continue to suffer &, hopefully, engage in self-reflection

Don't see it if Don’t enjoy powerful acting & a script that deals with issues that resonate in today’s world and provides an palpably intense experience.

Timely, Moving, Well-performed

See it if you want to be intellectually stimulated and emotionally connected to a story and characters for 90 minutes, where the script is perfection.

Don't see it if you don't like plays, and want big elaborate splashy and shallow storytelling.

Also Personally I'm not a huge fan of Kerry Washington's other work, and ha... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Must see, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if Must see drama if there ever was one. Beautifully done. Sadly, speaks of our current society. It’s scheduled to close it’s limited run 1/27

Don't see it if Unless you can’t handle dramas, you have to see it.

Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if This is a timely show with important social themes. Kerry Washington gives a master class in acting that will bring you on an emotional ride

Don't see it if If you don’t like emotional shows with no intermission.

Relevant, Timely, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if If you are moved by current racial issues. An emotional and gripping experience.

Don't see it if You are not interested in racial justice.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if Kerry Washington is amazing, even though she is on stage for almost all of the play.

Don't see it if You don't want topical plays. Some of the characters can be a little cliched at times.

Great acting, Must see, Intense, Relevant

See it if You love Kariey Washington

Don't see it if if you don't like plays

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like relevant,absorbing, totally on point plays.Washington is terrific.Highly emotional & moving performance.Painful, poignant,touching

Don't see it if you are a bigot--no, definitely see it if you are a bigot or voted for Trump.This is exactly the play you need to see.So touching,universal.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Riveting

See it if You like a drama about issues facing America today.

Don't see it if You do not believe that African-Americans are not being killed by the police without cause.

Also This drama was powerful and riveting. It confronted the issue surround... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Absorbing, Exquisite, Edgy

See it if Masterful writing and acting of this timely play

Don't see it if You don’t like serious writing about racial injustice

Entertaining, Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a complex dealing with a single aspect of the serious issue of racial injustice in the United States.

Don't see it if you want the issue of racial injustice dealt with in broad strokes or the use of a TV sit-com device makes a show unpalatable.

Also Despite the marketing, Race Relations is only a subtext in this show. ... Read more Read less

Powerful, Stunning, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you enjoy intense theatre reflecting current issues and themes, great performances, a tight script and some brutal moments.

Don't see it if you are "triggered" by racial themes or are not a fan of taut dramatic productions. Nothing soft and fluffy in this one.

Also American Son hits heavily, the topic of racism and bigotry in today's ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Resonant

See it if -you know that our country faces incredible challenges when it comes to race. -you want to see Kerry Washington's masterful performance

Don't see it if you aren't prepared for intensity and an ending that will stick with you for days. What a powerful piece of theater.

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You enjoy excellent acting, dramatic storytelling, and seeing Kerry Washington on stage.

Don't see it if You do not enjoy dramas or plays, or does not want to see something that’s emotionally heavy.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Great writing, Great acting

See it if you want a truly profound broadway experience. The acting is amazing!!!

Don't see it if you don't want to challenge your world view or if racial inequality is a trigger for you. (But if it is, you should see this show!)

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Profound, Relevant

See it if You love intense emotional dramas and unbelievable acting. Also see it if the Black Lives Matter movement is important to you.

Don't see it if Don't see it if you only enjoy light fluffy comedies and don't enjoy family dramas with political overtones.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Thought-provoking

See it if You want a gripping drama that just doesn't let up and that delivers a sucker punch in the end. Cast is top notch

Don't see it if You want an upbeat, light show. You don't like shows about race or issues that this country deals with on a daily basis

Also If you love theatre then see this show. I wasnt bored for 1 second. Re... Read more Read less