by Jahnesha Huertas
David Mamet’s (playwright and director) new play Race will definitely keep fans of his past work (such as Oleanna) pleased as he once again puts his signature spin on society’s opinions of power and status.
The play begins with Charles Strickland, a white man charged with the rape of a black girl, coming to the law firm of Jack Lawson and Henry Brown. Lawson and Brown are suspicious that there is more to the story than Strickland is telling. Susan, the office intern, strongly feels that the suspect is guilty from the beginning. The debate goes into whether the alleged victim was a true lover of Strictland or if the whole ordeal was racially motivated. Secrets from Strictland’s past sprout up from nowhere, and Susan does everything in her power to make sure that justice is served.
Race puts a strong focus on the different interpretations that the white and black community puts on race, what is viewed as politically incorrect, and if foul play against a guilty person is justified. The fast and intense dialogue of the play is a pleasure to watch, however, some of the conversations seem very choppy and abrupt, as if the actors are reciting their lines mechanically and don’t fully internalize what they are saying.
The entire play takes place in the law firm and the only indication that we have of the passage of time are some minor costume changes. The set is kept simple to allow for more of an emphasize on the plot. The whole cast does a very good job of telling the story, however, James Spader (playing lawyer Jack Lawson) was the most dynamic onstage and portrayed a lawyer very naturally and realistically (perhaps because he played a lawyer on the TV series Boston Legal).
Mamet’s newest play Race made me think about a question that I never paid much attention to before: If you are guilty of sinister acts against a guilty person, does that somehow make you less guilty?
HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $26.50 student rush • Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.