The Public Staging ‘American Son’; Prime Stage Has ‘The Outsiders’ at New Hazlett (Sun., 3/8/20)

Bianca LaVerne Jones plays the wrenching role of a worried mom in The Public's 'American Son.' (photo courtesy of the artist)

Bianca LaVerne Jones plays the wrenching role of a worried mom in The Public’s ‘American Son.’ (photo courtesy of the artist)

1) Pittsburgh Public Theater shifts from wacky to serious, following up Little Shop of Horrors with a play about a horror many have gone through, Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Son. An African-American woman, distraught that her teenage son is missing, visits the local police station. All she can learn is that the young man was involved in an “incident” with the police. Tensions multiply when her estranged husband shows up to help, for while they’ve been sharing custody of their teen, they do not share much common ground otherwise. American Son was a sensation on Broadway in the 2018-19 season. A Netflix made-for-TV movie version didn’t do so well, but the play is said to be quite moving when performed live. The Public presents American Son with Bianca Laverne Jones as the mother, David Whalen as her husband, and Michael Patrick Trimm and Guiesseppe Jones as police officers. 2 and 7 p.m. Performances continue through April 5. At the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

2) Pittsburgh’s Prime Stage Theatre presents the live version of a classic young adult novel, The Outsiders. It’s a violent but moving tale of class warfare escalating into deadly gang warfare among teens at an Oklahoma high school during the 1960s. Author S.E. Hinton wrote the book when she was only 16, inspired—if that’s the right word—by actual tensions in her school between the “greasers” and students from wealthier homes. The Outsiders struck a chord with readers by virtue of its realistic scene-setting and rich character depictions, then won an even wider following when it was made into a 1983 movie by Francis Ford Coppola (who also filmed Hinton’s subsequent novel, Rumble Fish). Fans who loved The Outsiders in their teens often retain warm feelings toward it, so expect a crowd of various ages at Prime Stage. The adaptation is the standard one by playwright Christopher Sergel. The cast, a mixture of young working actors with high school and college actors, includes Carolyn Jerz as Cherry, Dakoda Hutton as Johnny, and Dominic Raymond as Ponyboy. Runs through March 15. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. (MV) 

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Rick Handler

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