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New York | 1h 30m | Ends Jan 27

American Son (Broadway)

From 44 critic and 189 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 | Ends Jan 27 | 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

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


"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


"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

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

Chicago Tribune

"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." Full Review


"'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." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"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." Full Review

The Wrap

"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." Full Review

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

Moving, Timely, 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

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

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

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you enjoy great acting in a timely drama discussing the difficulties of being Black in America today. Well done production.

Don't see it if you can't handle intense drama discussing racial problems in America.

Also This was a well written play that honestly discussed racial as well as... Read more Read less

Great acting, Must see, Excruciating

See it if you enjoy excellent acting, a play that is ripped from the headlines

Don't see it if you do not enjoy heartbreaking dramas

Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Riveting, Vital

See it if you want to see a contemporary play that addresses issues of race, gender and class in bold and honest ways.

Don't see it if you want theatre that allows you to escape from the world rather than plays that hold up a mirror to the world.

Also Only 90 minutes long, but the play packs a shattering wallop. This is ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, riveting and timely

See it if you enjoy a drama told from different viewpoints with a riveting performance from Kerry Washington, the mother of a missing biracial son.

Don't see it if Kerry Washington is not in it

Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Emotional

See it if you want to experience an outstanding performance by Kerry Washington and the cast that leaves you breathless, stunned, and powerless.

Don't see it if you are not interested in seeing a play about race, relationships, perceptions, and problems that exist in society today.

Also The audience gasp at the ending is heard throughout the theatre and ma... Read more Read less

Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing

See it if NOTHING was left out. Everything from couples arguing to how to raise a child to race issues in and out of a community, no one is perfect.

Don't see it if You can’t handle real life blatantly happening in your face and you don’t like feeling bad or angry.

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

See it if you are interested in examining race and race relations from every aspect black/white, white/white, black/black, husband/wife, male/female..

Don't see it if serious, thought-provoking shows make you uncomfortable or if you do not wish to examine race relations.

Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like intense plays with relevant topics that will make you think.

Don't see it if You can’t handle intense dramas.

Poignant, Intense, Profound, Powerful, Gut-wrenching

See it if You enjoy contemporary dramas.

Don't see it if You don't want to sit through an intense contemporary drama that discusses family, race, politics, and policing, among other topics.

Also American Son is an intense, gut-wrenching, poignant, profound and powe... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you enjoy great performances of a well written piece dealing with the plight of being African-American in today's society

Don't see it if if you do not enjoy watching/hearing racist remarks and characterizations

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like exploring contemporary topics in race relations. The acting is uniformly great.

Don't see it if You want a lot of action. This is all talk. There's not much new information here, but a good summary of the topic.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Must see, Great writing

See it if you are looking for an evening where 4 great actors give excellent performances in an important new play

Don't see it if plays with racial themes upset you.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if Topical. Very sad play. Great set, impressive rain storm effect.

Don't see it if Worth seeing although not if you feel like escapist entertainment. Play is serious and will evoke feelings of stress and sadness throughout

Also Short. Ends abruptly. I sat upstairs in the last row and could see ver... Read more Read less

Well written and staged, Appropriately disturbing, Unfortunately timely

See it if You enjoy disturbing contemporary dramas that accurately reflect a crisis of our time

Don't see it if You do not want to be upset in general or you will be more dismayed if no resolution or remedy emerges from the narrative

Also I found this work appropriately disturbing and thought provoking. It a... Read more Read less

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want to witness a memorable performance by Kerry Washington in a poignant and timely role.

Don't see it if You like surprise endings.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You enjoy drama that hits hard subject matter.

Don't see it if You prefer something uplifting.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Cliched

See it if you want intense, ripped-from-headlines drama re young black men in police custody. Superb acting by all and terrific, understated staging.

Don't see it if Similar in style - and some themes - to SWEAT and LOBBY HERO. Not as good as former, better than latter. A bit 'TV movie' in feel/style.

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

See it if You want a thought provoking play that discusses important issues, has mostly great acting, and takes your breath away at the end.

Don't see it if You want tidy. The ending was extraordinary, but felt contrived and unrealistic. I love Kerry Washington, but her performance was one-note.

Also We discussed the play for hours afterward, and the topics it raised. B... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Profound, Current, Gut wrenching

See it if You are interested in a 90 minute (no intermission) thought provoking piece about racial inequality in America. If you love Kerry Washington

Don't see it if You’re not open to thinking about police brutality, race, and privilege in America. You prefer light, fluffy, comedies or big musicals

Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Well acted, Timely

See it if you don't mind being riveted in a very manipulative way. Good acting, particularly like Eugene Lee in a relatively small/important role.

Don't see it if Sub par writing and direction. Pasquale's character underwritten. Anxiety high from start to finish with a predictably sad ending.

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Offer valid on select seats through 1/27/19.  Offer subject to availability and prior sale.  Cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions.  All sales final; no refunds or exchanges.  Telephone and internet orders are subject to standard service fees.  A $2.00 theatre facility fee is included in the price of the ticket.  Limit 8 tickets per order.  Blackout dates may apply.  Schedule, times, and prices are subject to change without notice.  Offer may be revoked or modified at any time.

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