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'American Son' Comes Home To Miami For Arsht Center Run

Justin Namon
For ArtBurstMiami.com
James Samuel Randolph as Lt. Stokes has a tense reckoning with Kendra, played by Karen Stephens, in the Zoetic Stage production of 'American Son' by Christopher Demos-Brown.

“American Son” by South Florida playwright Christopher Demos-Brown is set in Miami. An interracial couple spend a tense night waiting for police to give them news of their son.

The play, which deals with race and police brutality, had a successful 2018-19 run on Broadway and was made into a Netflix film later last year. Zoetic Stage has now brought "American Son" home to the Adrienne Arsht Center, where it runs untilSunday.


REVIEW: Zoetic Stage's 'American Son' Represents South Florida Theater At Its Finest

Stuart Meltzer, director of “American Son” and artistic director of Zoetic Stage, joined Sundial host Luis Hernandez to talk about this latest production.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

LUIS HERNANDEZ: Kendra is black and Scott is white. Tell me more about their relationship and the dynamic between the couple onstage because it would be a totally different story if Scott was black and Kendra was white.

STUART MELTZER: They're a married couple for 20-plus years and professional and obviously financially well off to some degree. But they are splitting up. They're separated and they're in the process of four months being apart. And he has another woman. She doesn't have anybody. In that part of the storytelling, there's a big chunk of betrayal that happens.

And they're at a police station in the middle of the night, but so much of what happens in the play is the past four months, the past six years, the past 20 years of their lives. That all comes crashing and colliding at the end.

The writing in the show is rooted in the history of South Florida. Kendra at one point talks about what it's like to be a black woman driving on South Dixie Highway. She and the lieutenant also discuss life in a Liberty City housing project. What has it meant to put on the show for a hometown audience? 

It contributes greatly to the experience. Not to say that those places can't be imagined. For Broadway audiences, that's not necessarily their view of the world. People don't know Miami really well. They know Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables. I grew up here in Kendall, driving on South Dixie Highway. These familiar aspects to our community are very alive and real and really contribute to a familiarity of what's going on.

The issue of an interracial couple dealing with race, dealing with police relations and race. You're a white director. How do you approach this? 

I hear that often because I direct a lot of different kinds of plays. I just directed "The Wolves" that were 10 females playing soccer. A few years back, I directed a "Top Dog Underdog," which was about two black brothers. How do I relate? That's the big question.

I relate because part of my job is to look at a script objectively with empathy. I relate because I look at my job as being a connector of the human experience. And the human experience has much to do with where we come from as far as culture and identity and race. But I also think it goes beyond just that. So I'm a facilitator. I bring the people together and we talk about the circumstances at play and we talk about themes and the identity of the play. And for me, all I want to do is not step in the way of what's really going on and what the actors bring. My job is to tell the story creatively, hire the best actors and the best designers to tell that story. 

The transcript of this interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.