Review: AMERICAN SON at Narcisse Theatre Company

A heartwrenching journey into the horrors of modern day America

By: Feb. 07, 2024
Review: AMERICAN SON at Narcisse Theatre Company

Theatre is often designed to send audiences home feeling all warm and fuzzy with their happy endings. However, some shows have a deeper purpose, to create conversation around topics that can be very hard to discuss. "American Son" at Narcisse Theatre Company definitely falls into the latter, making it a difficult but compelling watch. This 90 minute show is so explosive in every way that you can't help but sit on the edge of your seat. I literally almost fell off my chair at one point because of the intensity of the situation.

The moment you step into Narcisse's cozy theatre space, you're transported into a Miami police station which builds immediate suspense. From the working wall clock (seemingly accurate to the time of the play) to the large neighborhood watch sign to the outdated pay phone and dim lighting, it felt like we were inside the police station with Jamal's parents, which further added to the power and intimacy of the story. The only thing I found to be out of place was a bit of the sound design. I feel like the phone ringing sounds would have been more effective coming from the front of the stage rather than from behind the audience. The most important sound, however, was deeply disturbing and will likely be very triggering, so be warned.

The performances of this small but mighty cast are what truly keep this story moving forward, as there are no clear scene changes or intermission to break up the tension. You likely won't notice much in the moment though, because from the moment Dr. Kendra Ellis-Connor (played passionately by Aminah Carter) enters the room, you'll be as invested in finding her son, Jamal, as she is. As we learn bits and pieces about Jamal and his potential whereabouts (details that make us feel like we know him too even though he never appears onstage), we are also met head-on with the complexities of modern society. Jamal's father, Scott, (played intensely by David Richwine) frquently challenges Kendra on matters of race and class. Always present, however, is the underlying reminder that no matter how challenging their family dynamic is, the deep love they both share for their son never waivers. The Connors' interactions with officers Larkin and Stokes (played brilliantly by Ben Brautigam and Mark Maples respectively) were increasingly infuriating as we see firsthand how broken the justice system truly is on every level. Director F.L. Henry Jr. (Frank) and his team did a stellar job all around with this thought-provoking cautionary tale.

I felt honored to have the opportunity to witness this heartwrenching drama. It is my hope that everyone who is able to come to this show takes time to reflect on and discuss the powerful themes found within. "American Son" is playing now through February 18th at Narcisse Theatre Company in Harrisburg. Click Here to purchase tickets. And bring lots of tissues. Oh, and try not to fall out of your seat.

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