Granted, there hasn’t been a whole lot of truly live theater in the bay area since last fall, when restrictions started easing up a bit. This weekend, however, Andresia Moseley opens her third show since November – her third emotionally-taut drama in four months.
“I went from doing Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, where I played 27 characters from the tragic L.A. riots, to Doubt, where my son may been molested by a priest,” the actress says, “to playing Kendra in American Son, who is grappling with her Black son and police issues.”
American Son, by Christopher Demos-Brown, finds Kendra Ellis-Connor in a Miami police station, in the middle of the night during a torrential downpour, desperate for information on the whereabouts of her missing teenage son, Jamal.
Like Twilight and Doubt (both performed with Jobsite Theatre), American Son demands Moseley push the dramatic envelope and leave part of herself on the stage, every night.
“I enjoy these sorts of roles because, for me as a performer, the characters are dynamic,” Moseley explains. “So it’s never a linear performance. Every time, I have to go through various layers in order to put the character together. And I enjoy that; that’s the challenge.
“However, I am also human, so after three, four challenges back to back I’ll probably need to take just a short break, and then return. And I’m not talking long – because I can’t stay away from it too long.”
The central conflict in Demos-Brown’s story involves Kendra’s frustration with the cop on duty, Officer Larkin (played by Blake Halloran). “It frustrates her because he’s new and all he knows is protocol,” Moseley explains.
“And because she is a more affluent woman, she is used to walking into a space and dealing with like minds. And getting things solved. And he’s not capable of getting beyond what he knows as a protocol. She has that battle with him for information – which he actually does not have, because he’s not ranked high enough.”
The officer, too, understands that the two of them are getting nowhere fast. “All he sees from Kendra is this combative woman that thinks she’s better than everybody else. You can tell from her tone what she really thinks of him in their encounter.”
Enter Jamal’s father, Kendra’s estranged husband Scott Connor (Ward Smith). “Scott is a white guy, he’s an older guy AND he’s an FBI agent,” Moseley says.
And thus race, and respect, raise their hands, as Larkin quite obviously deals with Scott on a very different level.
Kendra, Moseley points out, is flipping out. “She is functioning at all times on three or four different spheres. One, her estranged husband and her have to share space. Then she has the fact that Jamal is missing.
“Then, there was an argument she had with Jamal that no one really knows about. And then there’s the encounter with the police. So there’s so many functions happening at the same time, with every line she says.”
The situation reaches a boiling point with the appearance of Lt. Stokes (Aaron Washington), who “gets into it” with Jamal’s father.
American Son was made into a film in 2019, with Kerry Washington as Kendra and Steven Pasquale as Scott.
There are several “torn from the headlines” moments, to be sure, and the dark commentary about race relations in America runs through it like a sinister river. And like Dominque Moriseau’s bleak Pipeline and other recent plays, American Son makes bold statements about what the future holds for young Black men.
For Andresia Mosely, it’s all that, and a character study.
“The show is trying to present, first of all, all perspectives,” she says. “I really am intrigued by the fact that it’s an interracial couple. Scott’s perspective on how things may have occurred, and who’s to blame, is very different than Kendra’s. And very different from the cop’s. So I think that what the story opens up, as far as conversations, is ‘everybody has a reason that they think their side is right.’
“I don’t often consider, let’s just say it, the white guy’s side. And that they could both be affected in a similar way. It’s surprising.”
American Son opens Friday, March 12. Details and tickets here.