Closed 1h 30m
American Son (Broadway)
Midtown W
85

American Son (Broadway) NYC Reviews and Tickets

85%
(385 Reviews)
Positive
93%
Mixed
6%
Negative
1%
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.


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Member Reviews (385)

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82
Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if The strong script steals the show in this intense drama about race in America.

Don't see it if You don’t like heavy dramas.

80
Ambitious, Absorbing, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Anxious

See it if Covers a lot of ground w/upscale parents trying to raise a black child in racist USA. Conflict of aspirations, fears & values. Good acting

Don't see it if You are expecting a thriller. This was a parental & marital argument. There is a dual mystery of the son’s emerging identity & whereabouts.

Critic Reviews (50)

November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"The rhetoric is heavy-handed, the grief and fear are unremitting, the brushstrokes are asphalt-thick, and there’s no subtlety...The play doesn’t need to establish suspense because we all know what’s happened...'American Son' is meant to make us sit with this grim certainty, and it strategically deploys the glamour of Kerry Washington to sugar the pill...She takes the rage, sorrow and guilt of our whole city-state and channels them into a single cry."
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November 4th, 2018

"A dreadful play...Stale, expedient storytelling and go-for-the-jugular sentimentality...A contrived, TV-ish script peopled by one-note characters and peppered with amateurish flourishes...Its director, Kenny Leon, can’t push the material past its inherent paperback flatness...There’s nothing remotely theatrical about this play, no reason for it to be a play at all — save that we retain a kind of anxious cultural cachet about drama...This is cheap, manipulative writing."
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November 12th, 2018

"“It’s hard—and, given the volume of choices, maybe ultimately impossible—to isolate the worst aspect of ‘American Son’…There’s the stilted, bulky dialogue, through which the characters deliver loads of exposition...Nobody says anything interesting, or funny, or surprising. The acting is even less flavorful, probably as a result of the deficient script...But what struck me as frankly offensive about 'American Son' was its treatment of the son, Jamal, who never appears onstage.”
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November 4th, 2018

"'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."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 8th, 2018

"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."
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November 5th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"It’s flaws are significant...Struggles mightily to balance the rigors of effective, convincing drama with the blunt urgencies of agitprop...These aren’t small inconsistencies, nor are they rare, and despite Leon’s fluid direction and the robust performances, they keep the play from coalescing into the fully realized family drama it might have been. But as a cri de coeur, from a mother, for her child, for others like him, for her country, 'American Son' screams just as loud as it should."
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November 4th, 2018

"A tense, didactic Broadway play for our age of racially charged mistrust...You have to get past all that schematic writing to get to the deeper point, which is that racism poisons everything...The piece wrestles with crucial issues, and it’s performed with enough intensity by Pasquale and Washington under Leon’s theme-based direction that they effectively collide with your own prejudices, whoever you might be. You feel everything the characters feel, and...that has worth."
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November 4th, 2018

"The writing can be strained and mechanical, but it inches toward a greater complexity...The production, directed by Kenny Leon, occasionally hits its marks too insistently...'American Son' Isn’t a play for the decades, never mind for the ages. But it speaks directly to our grievous times. If the playwright’s limitations are conspicuous, his knowledge of criminal-justice realities brings an uncompromising verisimilitude to an ending that should leave Broadway audiences gasping for breath."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"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.”
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November 4th, 2018

"A ripped-from-the-headlines plot that couldn't be more relevant, from-the-gut performances by Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale, and a staging by Kenny Leon that elicits an extremely vociferous audience response...A play that says a lot and nothing simultaneously...Demos-Brown has created archetypes instead of characters...At least the performances are vivid...'American Son' could have been a landmark Broadway play, but instead it only skims the surface."
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November 4th, 2018

"It's an interesting piece of writing...The characters are less fully-fleshed out humans than they are representations of types created to express four sides of what is arguably the most controversial issue facing America today...The playwright seems determined to introduce every racially-orientated aspect of the situation into the one-act...The play can get a bit didactic, and the coincidences that fuel the storytelling can get strained, but under director Kenny Leon, the cast is convincing."
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November 5th, 2018

"Most of 'American Son' consists of them stewing and agonizing while they attempt to find out what has happened to him. This gives the audience plenty of time to notice the contrivances and bald devices that are employed liberally throughout...Kenny Leon's direction maintains a brisk pace, but both of his stars struggle with their one-note roles...Demos-Brown's script adds little to the conversation, and the awful conflicts at its heart are diminished by a series of mechanical twists."
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November 4th, 2018

"A well-made play devoid of elaborate technical or narrative tricks...A chessboard play, one where the characters are motivated more by what the author wants to say than what their inner lives dictate...Demos-Brown is so eager to get complacent white audiences to face up to the racial divide and be more conscious of how the world looks on the other side of it...If 'American Son' peddled that message with stronger characters and less chess-piece-moving, it might reverberate more loudly."
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November 4th, 2018

"It feels almost irresponsible to pan a play as well-intentioned and laser-focused on timely and vital subject matter as 'American Son'...In his admirable but misguided determination to cram our country’s wretched record of racial injustice and polarization into an 85-minute play, Demos-Brown seems more focused on dropping in obvious historical and cultural references than he is in character development."
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November 4th, 2018

"With its ripped-from-the-headlines plot, deliberate arguments, and crystal-clear-from-the-start ending, 'American Son' would have made an excellent episode of 'Law & Order.' It’s eminently watchable...Leon directs with the smooth efficiency befitting this procedural-style work, and the cast—Washington and Pasquale are especially fine as parents whose emotions ricochet from angry to anguished to afraid and back again—wrings just about all the drama they can out of the newsprint-thin script."
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November 5th, 2018

"Appealing, but hollow inside...Playwright Christopher Demos-Brown sketches these little flares of institutional racism and microaggression with some skill – even if he over-eggs the pudding...It’s important to have a Black Lives Matter drama on Broadway now; I’m just not sure 'American Son' is the one. It tells us things we already know, in language we don’t believe, spoken by characters we never get to know."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 15th, 2018

"Kerry Washington and the fine cast make the most of their choice roles under Kenny Leon’s solid direction...Demos-Brown’s biting dialogue, smartly delineated characters, and the propulsive real-time action all have their technical virtues but in totality add up to a mechanical and unsatisfying experience. It’s ultimately a rote exploration of contemporary issues that pushes the right buttons to little impact...A decent police procedural with political overtones."
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November 16th, 2018

"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."
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November 9th, 2018

“The slowly uncovered revelations are at times too heavy handed...especially Kendra's lengthy monologue about...her feelings of victimhood...I thought Jamal always being the single non-white student at the private schools he attended a bit of a stretch. Still Demos-Brown is to be commended for the interesting and highly dramatic way he draws us into the conundrum of race as it affects all Americans and their sons and daughters.”
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November 12th, 2018

"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.”
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November 11th, 2018

"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."
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C
November 4th, 2018

"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."
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T
December 7th, 2018

"'American Son' may have a ripped-from-the-headlines topicality, and it surely holds your attention for its 85 uninterrupted minutes, but it's also mired in melodramatic contrivance, overwrought acting, and frequent implausibility…'American Son' raises important questions regarding the criminal justice system…However, Kendra and Scott are too artificially drawn to make their particular predicament believable, a situation exacerbated by the plot's too-obvious mechanics."
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November 9th, 2018

"A timely if flawed drama whose power comes largely from Kerry Washington’s intense performance...Too many moments in the 90-minute play feel like filler, or forced: There is much yelling, and a tense confrontation that’s less than completely plausible...A major problem for me is how many other stories I’ve seen lately that have been more effective, and more affecting, in covering much the same terrain."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 7th, 2018

“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."
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November 22nd, 2018

"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."
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T
December 8th, 2018

"Wants to be a deep, complex examination of an immediate, vital issue and comes up short...The four characters...are more like representatives of viewpoints rather than flesh and blood. They speak to each other in talking points...Leon’s overheated direction turns the stage into a debate platform...The cast does their level best to humanize the proceedings, particularly Washington who filters Demos-Brown’s stagey dialogue through desperate mother love and a laser-like focus."
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November 4th, 2018

“’American Son’, a gripping new play...is piercingly of the moment, thunderously bleak, written in all caps, and indulgently depressing. Washington gives a devastating performance...but blunt writing provides shorthanded dialogue and characterizations that are unrealistic and convenient—tooled for the sake of advancing arguments, and provoking the audience, rather effectively serving a coherent social or political mission.”
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November 4th, 2018

"This play, directed with a stilted nerviness by Kenny Leon, is strangely locked in on itself. It is 90 minutes long, and rigidly stuck in the grooves it sets up right at the beginning. These grooves are vital and timely themes, but 'American Son' nullifies their impact through clunky storytelling and flat characterization...Manipulative and crass...The way the ending is phrased and treated...feels rushed and horribly exploitative...Both a waste of important material and its talented cast."
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November 4th, 2018

"The most common and deadly pitfall of any drama that attempts to address social ills is the failure to root polemics in believable human drama...A blunt, and frankly unsophisticated, primer on a deeply urgent crisis that blandly panders to those without skin in the game...A more adept stage actress might have had a better chance at lending dimension to Demos-Brown’s flat central figure, but Washington’s performance strikes the only note that’s called for with a numbing monotony."
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December 11th, 2018

“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.”
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T
December 17th, 2018

“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."
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November 5th, 2018

"We need a great play to delve into issues stirred by horrifying police violence against black people, but I don’t feel that Christopher Demos-Brown’s 'American Son' is it...Kendra and Scott sometimes talk as if they’ve never conversed before. Yes, they are emotionally miles apart, but there are times when you’d barely feel they even met...Fortunately, complexity emerges, but overall, this dire American crisis deserves stronger treatment."
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November 4th, 2018

"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."
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W
November 10th, 2018

"'American Son' is not about the narrative, which has a few too many theatrical 'gotcha' moments for my taste. Instead, it is interested in airing an argument about the pervasiveness of racism...I thought a lot about Washington's performance....There's little humor and almost no nuance, just 90 minutes of close-to-tearful raging. It can feel one-noted...And yet, her character is not irrational...'American Son' may have a shaky narrative, but it is a searing political argument."
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November 8th, 2018

"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."
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November 5th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"Director Kenny Leon keeps the action taut during the 90-minute running time, perhaps too taut. There isn’t much breathing room in the production...This is the rare show that would benefit from a longer running time, from more scenes exploring the characters in greater depth...Despite the best efforts of his talented cast, too often the characters can seem like mouthpieces for different points of view in a plot jerry-rigged in ways that don’t always ring true."
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M
November 4th, 2018

"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."
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November 4th, 2018

"This taut drama where you can guess the ending but don’t want to believe it...Demos-Brown’s debut play addresses a lot of issues...Knowing that the police will play as the villain, Demos-Brown gives a veteran Black Police Lieutenant played by Eugene Lee who has some opinions worth hearing out...A little underdeveloped. Without a big star it would have been sent to off Broadway for development. But it’s timely and important, and the actors invest their all."
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November 11th, 2018

"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."
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November 6th, 2018

"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."
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November 14th, 2018

“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.'”
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