Three lawyers: One white, two black, and a man accused of rape. A high profile case, as this white man is of some notoriety and the woman who has accused him is young. And Black.
"Race" is the product of Pulitzer Prize winning author David Mamet ("Glengarry Glen Ross") ("American Buffalo") and Ocean State Theater Company’s latest offering in Warwick. "Race" follows the three lawyers and accused man in discussion of the facts of the case, not in a courtroom, but in the offices of the law firm.
Here we learn about the process of forming a case and formulating a plan for defense; but it is here that we learn more about human nature, racial stereotypes and indeed, our own views on the way our society operates.
The players: Henry Brown, (Damron Russel Armstrong) Jack Lawson, (Christopher Swan) and Susan (Nakeisha Daniel) are the lawyers, Charles Strickland (Sean McGuirk) is the accused. Swan as Lawson is perfectly suited to Mamet’s snappy dialogue; he delivers a great performance as the white partner in the firm.
Armstrong, as the black lawyer, is fantastic as a man who spouts caustic one-liners as easily as Lawson rants about his firm’s convictions. Nakeisha Daniel delivers a very natural performance as Susan, she is reserved in the first act but lets it all loose in the second and it’s very effective.
McGuirk as the white man who may or may not have raped a young woman is skilled at this type of role and delivers competent work here.
The play itself is interesting if not provocative. The first act is pure exposition as we learn facts and something about each player. The second brings us deep into the case and exposes our propensity to make assumptions based on the way we view people in other classes and racial groups.
There is much to take in here, Mamet’s very colorful words and much profanity litter both acts in much the way we would suspect such lawyers would speak behind closed doors. The show is relatively short (under two hours) and must be noted again that this isn’t subject matter for young children.
Kimberly V. Powers continues her great work with a simple yet elegant set. Busy director Amiee Turner continues her fabulous work with this, her fifth production for OSTC in four months. Race debuted on Broadway in 2009, starring such veteran performers as James Spader and David Alan Grier and continued for 297+ performances until 2010 to critical and mixed reviews, certainly expected given the subject matter.
If you enjoy provocative theater and are eager to discuss its implications post performance, "Race" is truly the show for you. After all, this is what makes theater so entertaining.