‘American Hero’ A Dynamic and Hard-Hitting Look at Injustice

(L to R:) Laiona Michelle, Armand Schultz and Kally Duling in “American Hero” at George Street Playhouse, January 30 – February 25, 2018. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

The George Street Playhouse continues their current season with a dynamic play titled America Hero. Written by Christopher Demos-Brown, American Hero is at times terrifying and hard-hitting, but a theatrical experience well worth going to see. There are combat scenes that might be difficult for some to watch. However, they are needed to tell a story of two heroes of a battle that takes place post 9/11 in a Middle Eastern location. Both are members of the U.S. military who distinguish themselves by acts of valor. But only one receives the Metal of Honor.

The play opens with the scene of combat as it is taking place. Rob, a Marine captain, jumps on a grenade and saves many lives by doing so. He gets wounded and begs to be carried out by fellow soldier, Mary, a black woman, who is part of the Army.  Although he is saved, the next scene shows him in a wheelchair. He is back to his civilian life and has become successful with a small chain of stores. His daughter, Shawn, lives with him as she prepares to enter the Air Force Academy. There are several scenes which also show the preparations made to get Rob the Medal of Honor. The captain who speaks with Rob asks him about Mary. Mary is Army whereas Rob is a Marine. The desire to present the Medal to a Marine over an Army person becomes obvious. Rob also mentions information about Mary that lets the other man know she is a lesbian. Not much is said at the time about this collection of information but the play starts to show a cover-up at work.

The actions of both Rob and Mary are deserving of the Medal of Honor. Why does one get it over the other? The discovery of the cover up occurs when Mary comes to visit Rob. It leads to a treacherous conclusion. You will want to scream about the injustices taking place. That’s how strong this play is.

Director David Saint does an amazing job with American Hero in creating tension throughout the play. This tension gives a final flashback scene the power it needs to connect all the unspoken words and actions. Mary’s fate and the life that Rob prepares to lead all tie in to that flashback. The vividness of that scene is very intense. The final outcome shows the life that Rob leads. Although it does not involve violence, it is frightening in its own right.

Production Manager Christopher J. Bailey and Production Stage Manager Nicole Kuker do a remarkable job of staging American Hero. Using a set design by Jason Simms, the stage moves easily from the combat scene to become Rob’s home. The background scenery continues to show the devastation from the war-torn,  rocky area. Keeping that background onstage demonstrates that the memories from these war events are always in the minds of these people influencing what they do.

Also a part of the creative team are costume design by David Murin and  lighting design by Christopher J. Bailey.  Sound design is by Scott Killian and fight direction by Rick Sordelet.

A very strong cast includes John Bolger as Captain and others, Kally Duling as Shawn, Laiona Michelle as Mary, and Armand Schultz as Rob. Their acting is absolutely superb. This cast along with the creatives gives the audience an unforgettable theatrical experience.

American Hero is the second part of trilogy from playwright Christopher Demos-Brown. The first part of the trilogy, American Son, ran at George Street Playhouse last season. American Son is scheduled to open on Broadway in November, 2018.

additional information for american hero

Running Time: 95 minutes, no intermission

Location: George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road in New Brunswick

Performances: Playing now through Feb. 2, 2018

Contact for Info and Tickets: Visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org, or call the box office at 732-246-7717.

Audience: Prepare for strong language and mature subject matter.

‘American Son’ – An Emotional Look at Racial Divides

Scene from ‘American Son’ Photo by T. Charles Erickson

A hard-hitting, timely play is currently running at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse. American Sons by Christopher Demos-Brown examines injustices plaguing racial relations. American Sons earned the 2016 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for a new play by an emerging playwright. It had its world premiere at Barrington Stage last summer and is being presented in New Brunswick through February 26, 2017.

Directing American Sons is George Street’s Artistic Director, David Saint, who is celebrating his 20th anniversary at the Playhouse. Mr. Saint said the following about this play:

“I knew the minute I read this play, I had to bring it to George Street. This is an extraordinary page-turner and an important, timely play.”

Extraordinary it is for sure because the story it tells is all too true in today’s world. After seeing the play, you just sit and wonder “how could this have happened?” But stop and do a reality check and you know that what takes place onstage has been occurring at numerous locations throughout the country.

This play centers on an estranged, biracial couple whose son gets stopped in a traffic incident. The first character to enter the stage is Kendra Ellis Connor, mother of Jamal. She is a well educated black woman who works as a professor at a local college. The tension she experiences is evident as the waiting game for information on her son continues through much of the play. We never get to see Jamal, but we get a good picture of him. He’s described as a hard-working student who has earned his way into an upcoming appointment at West Point. When Scott Connor enters the play, we see that he is a white man who fell in love years before with Kendra and he is devoted to his son. Kendra and Scott have separated recently and this event has been difficult for their son to deal with. His “acting out” results in joining in with a few other young men who get pulled over for a traffic stop during the night.

As the couple waits for word of where their son is, they have encounters with Officer Paul Larkin and Lieutenant John Stokes. These encounters along the exchanges between Kendra and Scott bring the story to life. Some are very difficult to watch because the fate of a young man is unanswered. Playwright Demos-Brown has done a fine job on constructing critical interactions which bring out the injustice that ends up taking place. Be prepared to get involved with the Connors and ultimately, be prepared for a shock at the end.

The fine cast includes Suzzanne Douglas (Kendra Ellis Connor), Mark Junek (Officer Paul Larkin), John Bolger (Scott Connor), and Mark Kenneth Smaltz (Lieutenant John Stokes).

The set is designed by Jason Simms with costumes by David Murin. The creative team also includes lighting designer Tyler Micoleau and sound designer Christopher J. Bailey. The production stage manager is Thomas Clewell.  Casting is by McCorkle Casting, Ltd/

For tickets, contact the George Street Playhouse Box Office at 732-246-7717 or visit www.GSPonline.org. George Street Playhouse is located at 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ.

This show runs about 90 minutes with no intermission.

This play is an amazing piece of work to see before it leaves the George Street Playhouse.