RACE, courtesy of the producers Jeffrey Richards Associates.
Last November, I had the opportunity to attend an All Blogger Media Event with the cast of RACE: Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, James Spader and Richard Thomas. A podcast of the event was created and is available here. At that time, the cast was reluctant (or directed) to tell us little about this new work by Mamet. All we could be certain of is that it would be provocative and about race.
Having heard the actors speak about it and also having seen several of Mamet's works, I went in expecting to be provoked and even shocked. It turned out to be neither, but it was interesting to this person who works in the legal field and spends television hours watching legal drama.
Set in the conference room/law library of a two partner defense firm, it felt like the other side of Law & Order - the process of deciding whether to take a case and then finding and proving a defense. A wealthy white man, played by Thomas, comes to the partners, played by Spader and Grier, seeking defense of his alleged rape of a young, black woman. Kerry Washington plays their young associate.
Spader was completely at home as the white partner. His character easily explained away any racial and/or sexual slurs and/or prejudices. He is excellent in the role and is a great reason to see this play. Grier holds nothing back as a black man, partner to Spader. Washington plays the young associate with a great chip on her shoulder. Every slight against her, whether it is because of her race or her sex or even her inexperience, is felt. Thomas does sleazy and guilty effectively - he leaves the question of whether his character is guilty of crime or conscience due to prejudice unanswered.
The red herring is fine by mystery standards and every time Spader referred to sequins, I had to chuckle. When their defense strategy is done in, the tables are turned by the associate. The play is very well acted and directed, by the playwright himself. Although it's an interesting evening in the theatre, it doesn't feel like the typical Mamet drama tinged with sick humor and shock nor does it effectively make race the main issue. It's a slight drama lasting around 100 minutes including an unnecessary intermission.
RACE is slated for an open ended run at at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on 47th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Tickets are currently on sale via Telecharge through June 13th. Discounts are available via Broadwaybox.com